Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Multilingual lessons aid indigenous

Multilingual lessons aid indigenous

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Education minister Hang Chuon Naron visits a classroom in Rattanakkiri’s Lumphat district. MOEYS

Multilingual lessons aid indigenous

Most of Cambodia’s indigenous communities can be found in the north-eastern provinces, with the majority speaking only their native languages.

With the rest of the Kingdom communicating in Khmer, this presents some obvious barriers. There is increasing interaction between the isolated communities and the wider country, so some Khmer is often spoken. Even so, literacy rates among Cambodia’s indigenous communities remain low.

Specialists from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports have identified some of the challenges which restrict access to education for the children of indigenous communities. There is a lack of teachers who can speak both the national language and that of the indigenous children. Additionally, these isolated communities are often impoverished, and the combination of low incomes and great distances serves as another barrier to education.

A multilingual education programme has been in operation for 20 years, with the Department of Special Education responsible for teaching indigenous children.

A former multilingual student in Ratanakkiri province’s Bakeo district, Kwan Phleurng, said that he had seen many changes in the indigenous children in his community, especially when it came to their level of education and the economic well being of their families.

“I began teaching them as a community teacher in 2015. In 2017, I was accredited by the education ministry, and began teaching under the state framework,” he added.

He also said this academic year has seen 125 students – who are all indigenous children – with the community school having six classrooms at the primary level.

In his years as an educator, he has witnessed many students go on to become valuable contributors to society. Most of those who graduate have gone on to become teachers and businesspeople who communicate closely with most Cambodians, while others have gone onto to work with NGOs to develop their communities.

“I still encounter a few issues, chief among which is parents who migrate for work. This can affect their children’s studies,” he said.

To ensure that they all receive an education, he speaks with their parents, and offers as many children as possible a chance to return to school.

The leaders of the Bureau of planning and cooperation of the special education department are closely monitoring the development in the Bakeo district indigenous communities.

Pen Chan Kanab, head of the bureau, said this indigenous group lived far from the town and speak only their native tongue. The number who can speak Khmer remains low.

He added that the ministry had once sent state teachers to the indigenous areas, but there had been many instances of miscommunication, which had led to many students dropping out. This was why the ministry had initiated the multilingual education programme and recruited bilingual community teachers.

“We have adopted a model whereby the multilingual education programme serves as a bridge from the native language to the national language in grades 1-3,” he said.

Under the programme, students in grade 1 learn in 80 per cent of their native language and 20 per cent in Khmer. This changes to a 60/40 split in grade 2 and then a ratio of 30 to 70 in grade 3. By grade 4, the classes are taught entirely in Khmer.

He noted that the whole community had made good progress, and expected that the programme would be introduced in more and more remote areas of the Kingdom.

According to the bureau, since 2002, the education ministry has targeted five provinces – Ratanakkiri, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear and Kratie. The programme has been implemented at four state preschools and 124 community preschools in these target areas. The languages used for the initial years of teaching include Tumpoun, Kroeng, Bunong, Kuoy, Kroal, Kavet, Prov, Charay and Kachak.


  • Joy as Koh Ker Temple registered by UNESCO

    Cambodia's Koh Ker Temple archaeological site has been officially added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on September 17. The ancient temple, also known as Lingapura or Chok Gargyar, is located in

  • Famed US collector family return artefacts to Cambodia

    In the latest repatriation of ancient artefacts from the US, a total of 33 pieces of Khmer cultural heritage will soon return home, according to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. In a September 12 press statement, it said the US Attorney’s Office for the

  • Cambodia set to celebrate Koh Ker UNESCO listing

    To celebrate the inscription of the Koh Ker archaeological site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the Ministry of Cults and Religion has appealed to pagodas and places of worship to celebrate the achievement by ringing bells, shaking rattles and banging gongs on September 20. Venerable

  • Kampot curfew imposed to curb ‘gang’ violence

    Kampot provincial police have announced measures to contain a recent spike in antisocial behaviour by “unruly’ youth. Officials say the province has been plagued by recent violence among so-called “gang members”, who often fight with weapons such as knives and machetes. Several social observers have

  • PM outlines plans to discuss trade, policy during US visit

    Prime Minister Hun Manet is set to meet with senior US officials and business leaders during his upcoming visit to the US for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled for September 20. While addressing nearly 20,000 workers in Kampong Speu province, Manet said he aims to affirm

  • Manet touches down in Beijing for high-level meetings

    Prime Minister Hun Manet arrived in Beijing on September 14 for his first official visit to China, where he is slated to attend the 20th China-ASEAN Expo and meet other leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping. Upon his arrival, Manet laid a wreath at the Monument