Multilingual Mother-Tongue Education for Indigenous Students in Cambodia

Wayne E. Wright, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Research, Graduate Programs, and Faculty Development
Professor and Barbara I. Cook Chair of Literacy and Language
Purdue University College of Education


LOCATION: Lucy B. Ellis Lounge, Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics Building (formerly FLB)

TIME: 4pm-5pm, Monday, Oct 2


Cambodia has made tremendous progress rebuilding its education system and expanding access to schooling for all over the past 40 years since the end of the Khmer Rouge Genocide. A remaining challenge has been reaching linguistically diverse indigenous ethnic minority communities in remote regions of the country. In this qualitative interpretive policy analysis case study, I examine the Cambodian government’s adoption and expansion of a Multilingual Education (MLE) program for speakers of different indigenous ethnic minority languages across five Northeastern provinces. Data include MLE policy documents and curriculum, observations in MLE schools, and interviews and focus groups with NGO staff, government officials, MLE Core Trainers, local MLE teachers, and school board members. I also analyze the nature of Khmer and indigenous language use and the nature of teaching and learning in the MLE schools and classrooms. Findings reveal significant successes in establishing new schools and programs, expanding access to nearly 5,000 indigenous students, but also identify a number of challenges related to the governments’ capacity to further develop and expand MLE, with continual reliance on NGOs for technical and other support. Analyses of classroom observation data provide evidence of fidelity to the MLE model and curriculum, effective teaching and learning, and highly engaged teachers and students.