Multilingual Education for indigenous children to ensure that no one is left behind

UNICEF Cambodia
Dec 24, 2018 · 4 min read

A photo essay depicting the positive impact of multilingual education for indigenous communities in Cambodia.

By Victoria Laroche Creux,

Chea Lach, 22, is a multilingual teacher at Kres Primary School, Ratanakiri Province. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

Chea Lach, 22 years old, is a multilingual education teacher at Kres Primary School, in Ratanakiri Province. She teaches grade 1 and 2 in both Khmer and Krueng, the ethnic language of the Krueng community. This is her story:

“The reason why I teach multilingual education is because I am an indigenous person and I do not want the traditions and culture of the indigenous people to be forgotten,” says Chea Lach.

Chea Lach feeding the pigs early in the morning, before leaving for school. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab
Chea Lach leaving her home to go to school. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

“My village is Krola Village, Ratanakiri Province, and the people who live here work as farmers. In the morning, they wake up early to do chores. I get up at 6 am, sometimes at 6:30 am to cook rice, do the dishes, feed the pigs and then I get ready for school.”

“I have six siblings. My parents are farmers and my first eldest is a doctor. My second and third eldest are teachers. I am the fifth child and I am also a teacher.”

Chea Lach teaches students from grade 1 and 2 at Kres Primary School, Ratanakiri Province. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

“I was enrolled in the 1st grade at the age of 8. When I started to study, I encountered difficulties with the different alphabetical letters. The pronunciation is different in Khmer and in Kreung, so it was difficult for me to pronounce each letter. Multilingual studies have helped me to understand more about the alphabet.”

Chea Lach and her students playing a game in Kreung. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

“The first lesson that I teach is in Kreung, until 8:30, then we have a break and after that the lessons are mathematics and science. At 10:20am, I teach Khmer until 11am.”

“The multilingual method is fun as it incorporates pictures, games, books, songs… The students are happy to learn as they are having fun.”

“The games we play in the morning focus on animal sounds such as how the chicken sounds and how the cat sounds. It never gets boring!”

A little girl during class at Kres Primary School, Ratanakiri Province. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab
Students studying at Kres Primary School, Ratanakiri Province. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

“For me, teaching multilingual education is very important. Students are less scared to speak up in their own language. Fewer students are now dropping out of school”.

“The students are more motivated to learn and they enjoy learning.”

Chea Lach and the students watching basket weaving. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

“The reason I want to teach Kreung is because I don’t want the students to abandon their ethnic culture and traditions.”

“I also take the students to see basket making, so the children understand their traditional culture.”

Chea Lach helping her parents to work in the field. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

“At 11 am I come back home to do chores and sometimes I go to the farm to help my parents harvest rice or plant vegetables.”

Chea Lach during class at Kres Primary School, Ratanakiri Province. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

“UNICEF has helped me with my teaching methods. I think the trainings are very beneficial as they have helped me strengthen my teachings skills and when I have new knowledge I can use it to teach my students.”

A little boy during class at Kres Primary School, Ratanakiri Province. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab
A little girl during class at Kres Primary School, Ratanakiri Province. © UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Antoine Raab

In 2014, the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) together with UNICEF, developed the first Multilingual Education National Action Plan (MENAP) which aims to provide education for indigenous children in both Khmer and their Indigenous language.

MENAP is implemented by the Royal Government of Cambodia in collaboration with partners, Primark and SIDA and it supports thousands of indigenous children in rural communities throughout Cambodia to stay in school.

UNICEF Cambodia
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