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A number of opinions on teaching ethnic minority language and the pilot project on teaching thai language in Son La province

Speech by Bui Thi Ngoc Diep and Dao Nam Son - Research Center for Ethnic Minority Education at the HEDO Seminar on 28th March 2000.


In the past year, the ethnic minority language weren’t taught in the school. There are a lot of reasons and one of those is many ethnic language have not their own scripts.

The script is not only the symbol of a language but also the culture, the spirit of the people. In some Ethnic Minority people, for example: Thai, Cham, Kho Me who have an old traditional culture, their old scripts have reserved and stored until now.

Teaching Ethnic Minority language is meaning teaching their culture. The cultural language taught in school has to standardize and has to serve for the communication on all field of the life of the people and the community. It has an important role to take shape and develop the way of thinking, the psychology and the spirit of the people.

The cultural-language is reserved and stored in the literature works. The Thai people has “Xong chu xon xao” (long poem), “Tanchu Xiet xuong” (long poem). The H’mong has “Tieng hat lam dau”, the Tay-Nung has “Kham Hai”. The E De has “Dam San”. The Grai has “Xinh Nha” ... It is very regret that in the years recent, the Ethnic Writers don’t write their works by their native language but by Vietnamese. Therefore, the Ethnic Languages of the minority peoples have not the conditions to develop the Cultural Language.

In the common sense, the Ethnic languages taught in the school are hunted because they are not standardized as a cultural language, a symbol of the ethnic tradition and culture. The ethnic pupils are suffered a loss for this situation.

As we know the experimental Project on “Research a new method of teaching for the Thai pupils of the Primary School in Son La province, use Thai language as the first language has been implemented since 1996. This pilot project is promoted by HEDO and sponsored by the Toyota Foundation.

We consider that this is a great contribution to the development the Ethnic Minority Education. It also meets the sincere wish of the Thai people.

The project’s implementation includes two stages. In the 2 years of the 1st stage, Thai language is taught as the 1st language for the pupils of grade 1, grade 2 and grade 3 of Primary School. In the 2 years of 2nd stage, the Thai language is taught as a subject.

The scientists assume that learning by native language is the best way for the pupils to gain the knowledge on nature and Society. They hope that this project will prove their ideas, which will be a great contribution to the methodology of teaching the ethnic language for the pupils.

We know that HEDO in cooperation with Son La Education and Training Department operated this project carefully in accordance with a pilot process to research the theory, to investigate the reality, to set up the idea, to consult many languages. Scientists, to develop the curriculum and the text-books, to train the teachers and to evaluate the project’s implementation every semester and every school year.

The project will be concluded in 2001 and we hope it will go to its goal. In the year to come, the Ministry of Education and Training will promote another pilot project in Gia Lai, teaching Thai language for the Jrai pupils, use Irai as the 1st language. We hope a lot of useful experience from HEDO will be provided.

Thank you and best regards.


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