On the occasion of International Mother Language Day, the United Nations in Vietnam has emphasised the significance of language in ensuring quality education for all.

Education in native languages is essential to facilitate learning and to bolster skills in reading, writing and mathematics, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement, adding that taking this forward will require a sharper focus on teaching training, revisions to academic programmes and the creation of suitable learning environments.

The Ministry of Education and Training has successfully implemented the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s initiative promoting mother tongue-based bilingual education in Lao Cai, Gia Lai and Tra Vinh provinces since 2008.

Experience from participating kindergartens and primary schools confirmed that ethnic minority children taught in their native languages have better educational outcomes than their peers learning in Vietnamese.

According to UNICEF Vietnam’s representative Abdel-Youssouf Jelil, the use of the mother tongue during the first few years of school encourages and supports learning of ethnic minority students, encouraging them to remain in school and improve their academic achievements in Vietnamese or international languages in later years.

Mother tongue-based bilingual education is an effective approach to help ensure children have equal access to quality education, empowering ethnic minority groups, assisting in their societal integration and contributing to the country’s sustainable development.

Stronger national policies and public investments to facilitate wider application of initiatives for education in native languages have presented an opportunity for Vietnam to embrace its linguistic and cultural diversity.

International Mother Language Day on February 21 was declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in November 1999. It has been celebrated annually since February 2000, promoting linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.-VNA