Stung Treng, one of the remote northeastern provinces of the Kingdom of Cambodia, is inhabited by different ethnic minority groups in addition to the majority Khmers, such as “Brao, Kaveth, Lun, Phnong, Khmer Khe, and Kuy” (Center for Advanced Study, 2009, p. 285). Without schooling, these groups have high risks of being exploited and exposed to high-risk behaviors such as drug abuse and unprotected sex. With low levels of literacy they can be more prone to infection by common diseases in their community like malaria and dengue fever, which further depletes their minimal incomes requiring expenditure on medicines and medical expertise. Moreover, their full potentials to develop themselves as well as their community have not been realized due to lack of opportunities.
There are many benefits associated with mother tongue based bilingual education: higher enrolment rates in formal system; lower dropout rates (a common reason for dropout in the early years of education is language; there are high dropout rates for children speaking a different mother tongue to the language of instruction); lower repetition rates, for children needing to repeat particular grades of their schooling; higher rates of success for girls staying in education; higher rates of parental and community participation in children’s education; it can improve the relationship between political leaders and a multilingual population; it leads to greater proficiency and fluency in national language (and also then international languages if these are pursued) if initial instruction is done in mother longue; and community involvement in education is very important – involving parents, community and teachers in education helps children learn. Greater involvement is found when initial instruction is in the mother tongue.
Over recent years the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), has piloted a bilingual education programme in Siem Pang district, Stung Treng province, where most Kaveth ethnic group members are concentrated. This has been done in order to provide primary education to children of this group by using a bilingual model of learning implemented by CARE Cambodia, part of CARE International, in Rattanakiri province. The programme focused on a minority population in three villages of Siem Pang district directly benefiting approximately 225 children. For confidentiality purposes the villages will be known as village K, village O and village T.
1.2 Problem Statement
The bilingual method of teaching adopted in the program has been the means of providing primary education to children of ethnic minorities in this province and its impact has not been studied thus far, so the researcher has great interest in exploring this.
1.3 Purpose and Significance
It is anticipated that the data collected and analyzed in this study will be used as a strong foundation to argue for an expansion of the program to other minority communities which are currently underserved by the Cambodian education system. This has implications for an increase in education access for the-hard-to-reach children of the province’s minority groups. The range of possible impacts include the individual’s future work prospects, their attitudes towards and value for education, and the development of positive behaviors towards effective health and hygiene practices within the minority communities.
Hopefully, the research findings will demonstrate the positive outcomes and impact of the bilingual education programme. It may also uncover issues or problems that can be addressed. The positive impact will serve as an advocacy message to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport “for bilingual education to be part of national education policy plans, and the plans must be implemented in practice with sufficient resources in the form of allocated funds, properly trained personnel and other necessary resources” (UNESCO, 2005, p. 3).
1.2 Research Questions
This research proposal intends to explore the question “What are the self-reported impacts of attendance at the bilingual education programme on children, their families and communities?” with the following aims:
To document the impact on participating students of their attendance/involvement in the bilingual education programme in Stung Treng;
To document the impact on the families of students who attend the bilingual education programme in Stung Treng; and
To document the impact on the local communities in which students and their families attend bilingual education programme in Stung Treng.