Vietnam: Personalized Lessons Keep Children from Ethnic Minorities in School

September 4, 2013

  • Students from ethnic minorities in remote areas in Vietnam found it difficult to understand lessons because they were unable to speak Vietnamese, the official medium of instruction for schools.
  • Thanks to a World Bank-managed project, bilingual classes and customized materials make schools much more relevant and enjoyable to those students.
  • Parents and community members join students and teachers to build interactive libraries, develop learning materials and upgrade school facilities for better learning conditions.

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.

" I like to go to school because I can learn good things. I want to be a teacher. "

Le Trieu Nhu Y

3rd grade student of Dao ethnic minority in Yen Bai Province.

Before the project, students found lessons boring, especially for whole-day classes. Students often fell asleep in class and they did not like studying. But with learning by playing, they finish exercises quickly and effectively.

“Before 2010, we had a lot of children dropping out of school,” says Bui Kim Dong, Education Department Official of Van Chan Commune, Yen Bai Province. “We no longer have this problem in remote areas.”

Even communities have gotten involved in encouraging children to go to school, helping build open libraries and producing educational tools and toys for use in the classrooms.

With strong support from parents and the communities, the project helped upgrade classrooms, toilets and even build kitchens, helping make going to school even more enjoyable.

About 6,500 teachers benefited from the project through regular training courses and meetings to exchange knowledge and experience. They also improved their teaching skills by producing customized learning materials.

Completed in June 2013, the project has helped make schools more relevant for the children and has given them more confidence.

“I like to go to school because I can learn good things. I want to be a teacher,” says Le Trieu Nhu Y, a 3rd grade student of Dao ethnic minority in Yen Bai Province.