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Cambodia Shares Experience of Promoting Multilingual Education on International Mother Language Day

Under the theme “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society”, the 2021 International Mother Language Day was organized on 25 February 2021. Hosted by UNESCO, as a part of the Asia-Pacific Multilingual Education Working Group, the webinar focused on implementing the action plan items of the Bangkok Statement on Language and Inclusion. The event aimed at raising awareness of the importance of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB MLE), understanding practical policy and programme related the Bangkok Statement and catalyzing multilateral engagement and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. The webinar also highlighted the guidance note on “Ensuring inclusive education for ethnolinguistic minority children in the COVID-19 era”, in order to take into account COVID-19’s effect on multilingual education. This second session of the regional webinar series featured distinguished speakers and guests from around the region, including His Excellency (H.E.) Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport of Cambodia.

During the presentation, H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron discussed how the Royal Government of Cambodia is taking steps to address the challenges faced on the issue of MTB MLE, such as the development of orthographies, curriculum and learning materials of six indigenous languages. He added that the MoEYS introduced its first Multilingual National Action Plan in 2015, and is now implementing its second Action Plan, which incorporates many of the objectives of the 2019 Bangkok Statement. Referring to the enhancement of quality of multilingual education, the Minister pointed to several important strategies that include government investment into the development of stable, well-trained teacher workforce, and a pre-service teacher training programme with special accreditation in multilingual education.  

H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron acknowledged the importance of multilingual education in the promotion of cultural diversity, languages of ethnic minority and the provision of access to economic activities. He highlighted that the short and long-term vision of Cambodia is to enhance the quality of multilingual education by establishing a “Center of Expertise and Learning” of indigenous communities at a Regional Teacher Training College.

UNESCO strongly believes in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies, and advocates for education based on the mother tongue to begin from early childhood education.  Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, in her message emphasized that multilingualism and the use of mother tongue is essential because, “when 40% of the world's inhabitants do not have access to education in the language they speak or understand best, it hinders their learning, as well as their access to heritage and cultural expressions.”

Click here for more information about International Mother Language Day.