Yong Lee belongs to an ethnic minority in Laos. Also, she is extremely proficient in Lao, the country’s official language. In a test, she came out on top of many native-language pupils. Her inspiring story highlights how our education project can improve the prospects for minorities in Laos.
Yong is grinning from cheek to cheek. The eleven-year-old has just found out that she came second overall in the district-wide Lao language test. Pupils from 47 primary schools took part in the competition. For a pupil from the Hmong community to achieve such a feat is highly unusual. Yong could not speak a word of Lao before she started attending school. Over the last five years, she has perfected the language to such an extent that she can more than keep up with the native-speakers, and has made her entire village proud.
Yong’s village, Pha Dai, is located in the Laotian province of Bolikhamsai and is solely made up of members of the Hmong community. Life in the village is shaped by the culture and language of the Hmong. Ethnic minorities in Laos, of which the Hmong is one, often have to contend with poor quality of teaching. Many children find it difficult to catch up in class because they initially cannot speak the language of instruction. The teachers do not have sufficient training in how they can teach the Laotian language and the content of their lessons to ethnic minority students. That is exactly what we want to change with our project.
Yong’s success is primarily down to her passion for languages. Her tireless diligence and her dedicated teachers nevertheless played an important role. Our project has helped those teachers to understand how to cope with the children’s individual needs. They were introduced to methods that would enable them to teach the classroom language, i.e. Laotian, to ethnic minority children, to improve the quality of teaching of subjects such as Laotian and mathematics and to help their pupils make the most of multi-grade classes. The latter is particularly important in small, remote schools like the one in Pha Dai.
Yong loves going to school. She meets her friends here every day and learns a lot. It goes without saying that the Laotian language lessons are her favourite. She loves reading stories during break time and in her leisure time – and even writing them herself. At home, she helps her parents in the garden and with cooking, and looks after her younger brothers. Yong would like to become a teacher herself when she is older and hopes to teach Laotian to other Hmong children.
Das Programm wird von der Direktion für Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit DEZA, Eidgenössisches Departement für auswärtige Angelegenheiten EDA, mitunterstützt.