In remote areas in the provinces of Yen Bai, Dien Bien and Quang Tri in Vietnam, many students from ethnic minorities didn’t like going to school. Conversant only in their local dialects and unable to speak Vietnamese—the official medium of instruction for schools in the country—they found it difficult to understand lessons. Very often, teachers had to go house to house to persuade students to come to class.
But things have changed. Since 2010, more students have been flocking to school. They even arrive early to enjoy their new libraries before classes start.
“I like going to school because I can read books under the mushroom house [outdoor library],” says a 4th grade student at the Nam Lanh School in Van Chan, Yen Bai province. “Teachers also push a cart with story books around for us to choose from.”
Introduced in 2010, the Improving Quality Basic Education for Ethnic Minority Children in Three Disadvantaged Provinces in Vietnam Project brought a more hands-on approach to learning for more than 31,000 students in 49 primary schools.
The project is supported by the Japanese Social Development Fund and managed by Save the Children and the World Bank. Under the project, teaching assistants explain lessons to students in the local dialect. In some schools, Vietnamese is taught as a second language. This approach is helping students understand the lessons more easily.
Students, with the help of their teachers, create personalized books using their own words and paintings or drawings. Because the content is relevant to their lives, the children become enthusiastic about reading. This, in turn, helps them improve their Vietnamese dramatically.
To make learning more fun, ethnic costumes, props from festivals and musical instruments are displayed in classrooms, while local history and fun facts about life in the community are used as teaching and learning aids.
The idea is to replace the current system of rote learning with a more interactive class. As a result, students now find it easier to understand lessons and work closer with teachers.