Teaching Asssitants in Vietnam

7020 bilingual Teaching Assistants have   been recruited from isolated and rural communes to support more than 100,000 ethnic minority students in Vietnam. They can be found in 32 provinces from the far north of the country bordering on China to the very South , bordering on Cambodia. Teaching Assistants are a  PEDC projecintervention and are proving, through external evaluation, to provide exceptional results !

This intervention is not the only one from the Primary Education for Disadvantaged Children project, but is part of a package of interventions to support the improvement of learning achievements, particularly for children from different ethnic groups.

Teaching Assistant Gia Lai
Teaching Assistant Gia Lai

Lets start with the problem before moving to solutions.

There are 54  ethnic groups in Vietnam.  The language of instruction,  from day 1 in Grade 1  is Vietnamese.

But for the 53 ethnic  groups other than Kinh (Viet), making up 14% of the population, Vietnamese is not their mother tongue. Some students will live in heterogeneous communities and will be exposed to plenty of Vietnamese language at the markets, in the media  and are able to cope   when they arrive at school. Other students who may live mainly in 100% single ethnic minority communities, and taught by a Kinh teacher, will have serious problems accessing school and the curriculum.

parent Lao Cai

As you can imagine many of these students start to attend less regularly, do not make much progress, fail their grades, have to repeat and finally give up and drop out. Repetition can put serious financial burdens on families. Added to these obvious difficulties many of the students are needed at home to look after younger siblings while the parents do their farming, or they will look after the buffaloes, or just live so far from the school that getting to school is a hazardous journey (crossing streams during flood season for example). When the teacher cannot speak the language of the students and their parents  then the school cannot persuade the students to come to school as the parents rarely understand the benefits of education, particularly as many may be illiterate (in Vietnamese).

Teaching Assistant Gia Lai
Teaching Assistant Gia Lai

One solution to these pressing  issues, which are common in many countries, is to recruit bilingual teaching assistants.  They have two main roles. The first is to work with families so that they have confidence that the school can provide benefits for the children, the family and the community, as Teaching Assistants often have responsibilities  within the commune such as youth leader, chair of women’s committee or even village leader.

This role means that  they visit families, often collect students and walk with them to school (sometimes even carrying them on their backs across streams/rivers) and ensure that they arrive home safely after school. They even have help students with their learning at home so that parents understand a little more about what happens at school.

12 students are ‘collected’ and walk to school….

TA collects students
TA collects students
TA + 12 students
TA + 12 students
TA +students arrive at school
TA +students arrive at school
TA and students going home
TA and students going home
TA and students on long road home
TA and students on long road home

…. and that is 12 students who arrive home safely!

Parents are happier to enrol their children and send them to school regularly as they know they will be safe and that they have someone to talk to in their own language about the education of their children.

The second role is to support students when  they get to  school.

What happens at school ? Watch this space for the next posting !

Teaching Assistants are one solution to supporting ethnic minority students to access school,improve attendance and achieve. This intervention of providing bilingual Teaching Assistants will help the Government of Vietnam  achieve Education for All targets as well as Millenium Development Goals.


4 Replies to “Teaching Asssitants in Vietnam”

  1. Laudable project …. and a very challenging one !

    Well done for putting in the tremendous effort of creating something so innovative and marvelous that will leave an imprint on many generations to come.

  2. Good to see the TA programme hs been rolled out, after a long drawn up design and slow project start 2001-6.

    As PEDC draws too close, will the government institutionalise the TA positions and help some upgrade their skills to become qualified teachers

    1. We are working on ‘institutionalising’ TAs and there is some hope in the SEQAP project.
      Some TAs will be taking the entrance exam for Teacher Training College this July -we are hoping they get through. PEDC is porviding some support for this. However they will have trouble when they graduate -there is no quota for ethnic minority students, even though the GoV wants/needs more ethnic minority teachers.


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