Multilingual Education in the Least Developed Province in Cambodia

I shared in an early project post that there is a wide range of project topics I'm covering - some that are completely new to me, and others that feel more familiar. While agriculture is something that is very unfamiliar to me, education is something that feels a little bit "closer to home".

My sister is a teacher and she studied child, youth, and family development. She brought many moments of the classroom to our conversation – from the arts and crafts she introduced to her students to the deeper ideas of children and youth development.

I also have a soft spot in my heart for children. My first job was working with children at a summer camp and my second job in high school was teaching children how to swim. I think children are creative, crazy and immensely good at just being themselves. A trait we lose as adults?

Children playing

Ratanakiri Province

The province of Ratanakiri is in the north-east of Cambodia. It's sparsely populated and most families live in small villages of up to 20 households and many rely on subsistence farming (meaning farmers focus on growing enough food for themselves and their families).

What was also interesting about Ratanakiri Province was the high concentration of indigenous and different ethnic groups. Their diversity of people also meant a diversity of languages and dialects. The project I visited focused on multi-lingual education so that students could primarily learn in their own language while still having the opportunity to develop their Khmer.

The two main barriers for the children and young people to receive an education are accessibility (long distances that had to be covered to reach school) and classes only being taught in Khmer.

Preschool students ages 3-6

Early Childhood Development

My sister would be nodding if I asked her is early childhood development important. It is universally recognised as being beneficial to children, laying the foundations for basic skills.

Children play during a school break
Providing accessible drinking water

I see how the children benefit from the school, benefit beyond education. In the photo above, you see two young girls pumping water out of a well. In the dry season, access to water is not always easy.

But the story doesn't end at children, for me the story is just beginning with the children. There were about 14 young teenage students who were volunteers at the pre-school. They volunteered their time to visit the school after classes were over and help to paint, clean, and keep the school ready for the children.

"I will be a doctor one day"

I was incredibly touched to see these teenagers believe in the power and value of education. One of the young students said that he believes in education, "I will be a doctor one day".



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