At a glance: Viet Nam

Supporting early bilingual education in rural Viet Nam

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Viet Nam/2006/Nettleton
UNICEF Viet Nam is supporting pre-schools like the one in Ban Moi to give children in rural areas a head start on their education.

By Steve Nettleton

SUOI GIANG COMMUNE, Viet Nam, 15 January 2007 – She’s only five years old, but Mua Thi Xay is already learning a second language. She is ethnic Hmong, from a community in the mountains of northern Viet Nam. Until now she knew little of her nation’s main language, Vietnamese.

With help from her teacher, she recites a famous Vietnamese poem with her classmates at a pre-school in Ban Moi village. Xay says she likes to learn Vietnamese but also enjoys singing in her own language.

This pre-school is a new improvement for the village. Until recently, Ban Moi had no permanent classrooms. Children whose parents wanted them to attend pre-school had to make a 30-minute trek down the mountain, along an often muddy path.

Training materials for teachers

UNICEF is supporting pre-schools like the one in Ban Moi to give children in rural areas a head start on their education. In addition to providing toys and other pre-school materials, UNICEF helps develop training materials for teachers to work with ethnic minority children in their own language.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Viet Nam/2006/Nettleton
In addition to providing toys and other pre-school materials, UNICEF Viet Nam helps develop training materials for teachers to work with ethnic minority children in their own language.

“Bilingual teaching is very useful,” said teacher Song Thi Ngan. “When the children are very young they only speak their native language. If we speak to them in Vietnamese they don’t understand and are not interested.

“Now with bilingual education we explain to them the meaning of the poems, we teach them to sing a song in their language and they understand it better and feel more interested to go to school.”

Community involvement

UNICEF also works to get the broader community involved in child care and development. Once a month, parents, grandparents, health workers and village leaders meet in Ban Moi to share experiences and learn more about children’s issues – from providing proper nutrition to improving social and emotional growth.

It is part of a UNICEF’s goal to ensure that by 2010, all children under the age of six are physically, emotionally and mentally prepared for primary school, with a special focus on disadvantaged and vulnerable young children.

To achieve that goal, UNICEF is working to break down linguistic barriers, and give young Vietnamese an equal footing in early education.


 

 

Video

October 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on UNICEF-supported pre-schools helping give children in rural areas a head start on their education.
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