In the mountainous regions of Central Vietnam, different ethnic minorities coexist. Preschool classes are often made up of children from multiple ethnic groups. In its programme called BaMi (Mitigating Preschool Children’s Barriers to Learning in Disadvantaged and Ethnically Diverse Districts), VVOB works with the provincial educational authorities of three provinces of Central Vietnam to support teachers in teaching such diverse groups. Using a tool called ‘process-oriented child monitoring’, they reflect on their teaching practice to identify which children are (at risk of) not learning, and adapt their approaches accordingly to include all children.
Trần Thị Kim Lý, education advisor for VVOB in Vietnam, explains more in detail how BaMi improves quality preschool education for all by focusing on the most vulnerable children.
The current programme focuses on mitigating preschool children’s barriers to learning in disadvantaged and ethnically diverse districts. Who are these children and why are they vulnerable?
In that sense, children of those regions are vulnerable in many ways, and those of ethnic minorities even more. They grow up in a different culture, speaking a different language, which results in additional challenges for the teachers. Our intervention aims at supporting the teachers to work constructively with that diversity."
What are the possible barriers that prevent children from learning? How does the programme help mitigate them?
"There are many barriers to learning. Our situation analysis of the provinces of Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Kon Tum highlighted three main types: those related to gender, to environment, and to ethnic diversity."
"Regarding the last barrier type, most preschool teachers are from the Kinh majority and speak Vietnamese. Communication between them and the children of other ethnicities can be very challenging due to the lack of a common language. To address this challenge, the programme focuses on school-based and needsbased teacher professional development. The approach that is introduced, ‘process-oriented child monitoring’, helps teachers find new ways to deal with the communication challenges together with the young learners, and even take advantage of the multilingual context.
Rather than perceiving the differences of ethnicity as a barrier, they learn to see it as an asset and to adapt their teaching to diversity. They use this process-oriented tool to reflect on their teaching practice and to guide them in finding appropriate solutions to their specific contexts."
Thinking of all your visits to preschools, what experience has struck you most?
"During one visit to a preschool, children were role playing. Two preschoolers were pretending to be sellers: one Kinh girl owned a vegetable shop and the other child, a young girl from an ethnic minority, owned a garage. The latter child looked bored. No one came to her garage, while a lot of kids were buying vegetables.
She tried to talk to the teacher, who didn’t pay attention. Either because the teacher was talking to the vegetable vendor, because the little girl spoke her own mother tongue or too quietly, or for another reason… The child looked sad that she could not communicate with her teacher and the other children during that activity."
Understanding children’s needs
Imagine it’s 2030 and SDG 4 has been achieved in Vietnam. How will preschools have changed?
"Quality early childhood education would be provided to all children in Vietnam, by capable teachers who understand the children’s needs. They will know how to address the barriers to learning, so that all children can develop holistically, especially the most vulnerable ones. This would be the result of the nationwide application of the process-oriented child monitoring approach adopted by the Ministry of Education and Training in all preschools in Vietnam."