Bilingual education was top of the agenda when foreign and domestic experts gathered at a seminar in the southern province of An Giang on August 16-17.

Cham and Khmer ethnic groups make up about 5 percent of the local population, with many of them only speaking Vietnamese as a second language, if at all. As a result, children from these communities have been facing a language barrier when attending classes at State schools, where they are required to use textbooks and take tests written in Vietnamese before they are able to speak the language fluently.

The seminar was organised as part of a project – funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) - for the 2013-2014 school year in the province.

Participants learnt about UNICEF’s model for bilingual education in the provinces of Lao Cai, Gia Lai and Tra Vinh, which has proved effective since its implementation in 2008. Experts at the seminar reported that examples from around the world show blingual education to be the best option for students living in ethnic minority areas.

In An Giang, Khmer people account for over 80 percent of all ethnic minority groups, with most communities living in the mountainous districts of Tri Ton and Tinh Bien.

Ho Viet Hiep, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, pledged to faciliate the UNICEF project in order to help ethnic students feel self-confident in conversation and studying, and to reduce the number of children dropping out of the school system.-VNA