Bilingual education key for supporting Vietnamese minorities: UN

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Vietnam needs to improve its bilingual education system for children of minority groups in order to help close the yawning economic gap between many minorities and the rest of the country, a United Nations expert said.

After a ten-day trip to examine the human rights situation vis-à-vis various minority groups made at the invitation of the Vietnamese government, Gay McDougall emphasized in her preliminary report that persistent problems remain for many groups despite a period of economic growth and progress toward the UN Millennium Development Goals.

"Access to quality and appropriate education is a gateway to development and poverty eradication for minorities, and it's equally essential for the preservation and promotion of minority cultures, languages and identities," she said in statement released by the UN last week.

The UN expert noted that minorities were achieving poorer results compared to students belonging to the ethnic majority because they lacked the opportunities to be taught in their own mother-tongue from the earliest years of education.

The UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Education and Training in implementing mother-tongue based bilingual education activities in three provinces Lao Cai, Gia Lai and Tra Vinh on a pilot basis in H'mong, Jrai and Khmer languages.

McDougall will present a report containing her full findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2011.

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