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Implementation of law on the right to study of ethnic minorities in Vietnam

(PTOJ) - In the cause of national construction, the Party and State have always determined "Education and training is the priority of the national policy" and paid special attention to realizing the right to study of the people in general, ethnic minorities in particular through a system of specific laws and policies. The article clarifies the current situation and proposes some solutions to ensure the law on the right to study ethnic minorities in Vietnam today.

Ethnic minorities’ right to study is recognized in all Constitutions - Source: vnanet.vn

1. Reality of the law on the right to study of ethnic minorities in Vietnam

Ethnic minorities’ right to study is recognized in all Constitutions, from the first Constitution in 1946 to the Constitutions of 1959, 1980, 1992 and 2013, in the direction of further improvement. The Constitution in 2013 stipulates: “Citizens have the right and obligation to study” (Article 39); “1. Education development is the top national policy to raise people’s knowledge, develop human resources, and foster talents. 2. The State prioritizes investment and attracts other investment sources for education; etc. 3. The State gives priority to the development of education in mountainous areas, islands, ethnic minority areas and areas with challenging socio-economic conditions, etc.” (Article 61)(1).

Based on the Constitution, the right to study ethnic minorities have been stipulated in legal documents such as the Law on Universalization of Primary Education in 1991, the Law on Education in 2005 (amended and supplemented in 2019); Law on Vocational Training 2006, Law on Higher Education 2012 (amended in 2018) and other relevant codes and laws.

In order to effectively implement the Law on Education and other laws related to the right to study of ethnic minorities, the Government has promulgated many Decrees detailing and guiding its implementation. From 2010 to 2017, the Government and relevant ministries and branches have issued 42 legal documents on ethnic minority education and related education according to their competencies(2). The system of legal documents is relatively complete, creating a legal basis to ensure the right to study of ethnic minorities.

In addition to legal documents, the State has issued many national strategies and programs to ensure the right to study of ethnic minorities, such as: National target program on education and training for the period 2012 - 2015; Target program on education in mountainous areas, ethnic minority areas and disadvantaged areas in the period 2016-2020.

2. Reality of implementing the law on the right to study of ethnic minorities in Vietnam today 

Achievements

Ethnic minorities are respected, equal in learning opportunities and provided with adequate information, knowledge and talent development in learning.

Equality in education for ethnic minorities is implemented at all educational levels and training levels, associated with historical circumstances and unequal development among regions, ethnic groups, and groups of people, thereby building appropriate educational development policies. The State budget has spent tens of thousands of billions of dong building schools and classes, purchasing equipment and teaching aids, supporting living expenses, etc., to create favorable conditions for ethnic minorities to study. Subjects have actively implemented policies and laws. As a result, the scale and quality of education in ethnic minority areas have changed markedly; The right of ethnic minorities to be respected, equal in learning opportunities, fully provided with information, knowledge and develop their academic talents are increasingly guaranteed.

Currently, the centers of the inter-commune and districts all have high schools, and there is no longer a “blank commune” in terms of education. The school and classroom facilities system has been invested and built more and more spaciously, creating conditions to improve the quality of teaching and learning gradually. Many preschools and high schools have reached national standards, 100% of communes have reached the standards of primary school universalization, many places have reached the standards of secondary universalization; continuing education centers are established in the provinces and districts; Community learning centers are established in most communes. Everyone has the right to study the culture and vocational training in different forms: full-time, in-service, crash course, supplementary, daytime or evening.

When education nationwide was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, many localities in ethnic minority areas had practical and creative solutions suitable to practical conditions such as: organizing online teaching, on television, using information technology, telephone, texting. For students who do not have access to technology, the school directly transfers class materials to each student and gives instructions, support students’ learning.

Currently, the whole country has four preparatory schools, one boarding high school for ethnic minorities under the Ministry of Education and Training that offers training in the pre-university system for ethnic minorities and three faculties of preparatory studies for ethnic groups in Tay Nguyen University, Can Tho University, Tra Vinh University with the scale of more than 5,000 prior students/year. Educational institutions have been doing well in creating training resources for ethnic minority students in localities with challenging socio-economic conditions, meeting the urgent requirements for staff training.

The quality of ethnic education has been gradually improved. In 2016-2019, the Government commended more than 500 outstanding and typical ethnic minority students and students in studying, and 30 examples of ethnic minority youths who successfully started their businesses, creating a ripple effect and motivating ethnic minority students to strive to be better.

The above achievements have changed the quality of education in ethnic minority areas, meeting the right to respect and equality in learning opportunities, being provided with adequate information, knowledge and developing talents in the learning of ethnic minorities.

Ethnic minorities can study in a safe and healthy educational environment, develop comprehensively and bring out their maximum potential.

In recent years, the State and localities have invested in many programs and projects to develop education in ethnic minority areas. The network of schools and classes from preschools to high schools in ethnic minority areas has been strengthened and developed. Localities have eliminated the situation of three-shift learning, temporary classrooms, creating conditions for millions of students to study in solid, safe classrooms and providing accommodation for tens of thousands of teachers to keep their minds on their works. By 2019, the rate of permanent schools has reached 91.3%(3), school facilities and equipment have been invested and built, contributing to accelerating the construction of schools to meet national standards.

A special feature of secondary education in ethnic minority areas is the system of boarding and semi-boarding schools for ethnic minorities. This model has contributed to increasing children’s chances of going to school and improving the quality of education in ethnic minority areas. Currently, the country has 280 boarding schools and 357 semi-boarding schools, with the percentage of solid schools reaching more than 93%. Remarkably, there are 15 boarding schools for ethnic minorities in border communes, with the percentage of solid schools and classrooms reaching 100%. That shows the State’s attention to education in border areas(4). In addition to teaching culture according to common knowledge standards, schools also organize many activities such as dissemination and education of legal knowledge, health care, disease prevention, and cultural, artistic activities, physical training and sports, exchanges, life skills education, communication skills, school violence prevention, career guidance, vocational training, sex education in order to develop quality and capacity of students comprehensively. The school always creates a friendly, democratic and open environment between teachers and students, between students and between parents and the school.

In general, with the attention of the State and society, the quality of education in ethnic minority areas has been gradually improved: The percentage of ethnic minority students completing primary school is 95%; graduating from high school through the years from 95.64% to 99.8%(5). There are currently over 13,000 ethnic minority people in the country with postgraduate, university and college degrees; more than 78 thousand people have professional secondary school qualifications and have basically done the cause of illiteracy eradication and universalization of primary and secondary education.

Ethnic minority people have the right to learn in the spoken and written language of ethnic minorities

To comply with the law on the right to use and access languages of citizens of ethnic minorities, including the right to use Vietnamese as the common language and the right to use the mother tongue and traditional scripts. In the past time, in addition to the general policy on contents and national educational programs, localities in ethnic minority areas have also implemented their policies, specifically on teaching and learning ethnic minority languages and scripts. Currently, the whole country is officially teaching and learning six ethnic minority languages in high schools (with programs and textbooks issued by the Ministry of Education and Training): Mong, Cham, Khmer, GiaRai, Ba Na, Ede in 22 provinces with 756 schools, 5,267 classes, 174,562 students. Ethnic language teaching has a positive impact on mobilizing students to go to school, improving language ability, contributing to preserving and promoting cultural and linguistic values of ethnic minorities.

The training program for ethnic minority language teachers and the application of teaching methods to teach Vietnamese as a second language for ethnic minority students has been actively deployed by educational and training institutions. Currently, Vietnam is researching and implementing a mother tongue-based bilingual education program implemented by the Ministry of Education and Training, with the cooperation of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Ethnic minorities are entitled to the State’s priority policies in studying

The system of policies that prioritize and create conditions for ethnic minorities to exercise their right to study includes: policies on scholarships, tuition fee exemption and reduction, social allowances, support for accommodation and study expenses; policy on enrolment, priority to enrollment in universities and colleges; educational development policy for very few ethnic groups, has met the expectations of the ethnic minorities. For example, the implementation of the policy of enrolling ethnic minority students to universities and colleges over the past time has created favorable conditions for ethnic minority students to access high-quality education and create a resource of future ethnic minority staff. In the past years, thousands of children of ethnic minorities have been able to go to school under the enrolment policy, many ethnic minorities such as Ha Nhi, Co Lao, Pa Then, Khang, Bo Y, Lao, etc. first had enrolled students to study at secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

The implementation of priority policies for education development in ethnic minority areas has been implemented synchronously, thoughtfully and effectively by the Party committees, authorities and the local Education and Training branches. Regimes and policies for officials, teachers and students at all levels of education are fully implemented and in accordance with the State’s regulations. The contingent of teachers working in areas with difficult socio-economic conditions are entitled to the following allowances: preferential allowances, attraction allowances, extra-seniority allowances, roaming allowances, study allowances, etc. In addition to the priority policies of the State, many organizations and individuals also participate in supporting education in ethnic minority areas, contributing to alleviating difficulties for localities with a large number of ethnic minority people, ensuring the right to study of ethnic minorities.

Limitations and difficulties

In addition to the positive results achieved, the implementation of the law on the right to study of ethnic minorities is still facing many difficulties and challenges:

- About the right to be respected and equal in terms of learning opportunities; be provided with adequate information, knowledge and develop talents in studying

Although the quality of education has been improved, compared to the national average, the educational level of ethnic minorities is still low. There is still a significant difference in access to education between ethnic groups, especially in ethnic minority areas with difficult socio-economic conditions.

The network of schools, facilities, and teaching equipment has been enhanced but has not yet met the development requirements. Some communes in ethnic minority areas do not have preschools. Some localities have implemented clustering of classes and schools, leading to many students having to travel more than 10km to go to school in the absence of means of transportation. Difficulty going to school leads to an increase in dropout, becoming a challenging problem in many localities.

Despite many efforts, the mobilization rate of children in mountainous ethnic minority areas in the period 2011-2019 only reached 56.2% (the whole country reached 88.5%); the mobilization rate of children in preschool only reached 11.8% (the whole country reached 25.8%)(6). The rate of ethnic minorities going to school at the appropriate age is still low (about 75% at all three levels of primary, secondary and high school). In some ethnic groups such as Mong, Xtieng, Gia Rai, Mnong, Raglay, and Ba Na, the average percentage of students going to school at the appropriate age is below 60%, of which less than 30% of students going to school at the appropriate age at the high school(7).

The percentage of ethnic minorities who cannot read and write Vietnamese is still relatively high. Currently, 19.1% of ethnic minorities are not fluent in reading and writing Vietnamese. Ethnic groups including Mong, Mang, Lu, La Hu, have over 50% of the population are illiterate. The percentage of trained ethnic minority workers is low, averaging 10.3% (nearly 1/3 of the average rate). Some ethnic groups have trained workers below 5%, such as Brau, Mang, Co Lao, Lu, and O Du. This is the limitation of the ethnic minority workforce in accessing the labor market and improving labor capacity to generate income(8).

There is a shortage of teachers in ethnic minority and mountainous areas, especially preschool teachers. The capacity and standards of training, pedagogical skills of a part of teachers there are still weak; there are not many conditions to approach new teaching methods. The communes in the ethnic minority areas still have 700 teachers with below high school qualifications(9). The policy on using and treating teachers in ethnic minority and mountainous areas is still inadequate and has not created a material and spiritual motivation to encourage and attract enthusiastic teachers about the teaching profession.

- About the right to study in a safe and healthy educational environment, develop comprehensively, and bring out the maximum potential of learners themselves.

Over the past time, programs and projects to support and invest in educational infrastructure in ethnic minority areas have faced many difficulties in terms of resources for implementation. The network of schools and classrooms has not met the requirements of improving the quality of education, ensuring the learning rights of ethnic minorities. Some special schools in ethnic minority areas still lack living and learning conditions such as classrooms, function rooms, semi-boarding houses, kitchens, sanitation facilities, domestic water, etc. In many disadvantaged areas, temporary classrooms, bamboo, thatch and cork leaves still remain; the rate of solid schools is only 54.4%(10). Some schools were built long ago, have been downgraded, and are in disrepair. In some places, the natural terrain is not favorable; the school construction site is steep and dangerous; The inspection of facilities is not timely and often leading to the potential risk of accidents and injuries to students. There is also school violence, school food safety and hygiene problems in some educational institutions, negative impacts from the online environment, etc.

- About the right to study in the spoken and written language of ethnic minorities

The work of teaching and learning ethnic minority languages still has limitations: some localities have not really paid attention to teaching and learning ethnic minority languages in schools; teaching and learning quality is not high, most schools lack teachers to teach ethnic languages; facilities, tools, teaching materials are still lacking; program allocation time is short, etc. Some languages of ethnic minorities are at risk of extinction, including languages that are almost completely lost such as: Co Lao Do in Trung San, Ha Giang, O Du in Con Cuong, Nghe An, Tu Di (Bo Y) in Muong Khuong, Lao Cai, etc. Some languages are still spoken by very few people, such as Pu Peo, Co Lao Trang, La Chi Ha Giang; Ruc, May, Sach, Arem in Quang Binh.

- About the right to enjoy the State’s priority policies in learning

Due to limited resources, the implementation of policies is still incomplete, the implementation work is sometimes delayed, lacking in synchronization. Implementing a number of specific policies on education and training in ethnic minority areas is not good, especially policies such as enrolment and training by address. Although practical, the implementation is ineffective, the quality of training and use is not high. Due to insufficient awareness of the policy, some localities have not actively implemented it. Some policies for teachers, staff, and students in ethnic minority areas are still inadequate in terms of beneficiaries, norms, duration, support methods, complicated and cumbersome administrative procedures, etc. On the other hand, most of the localities in the ethnic minority areas have difficult socio-economic conditions, although they are given priority, due to the limited budget, they cannot meet the demand for investment funds for education and training purposes.

3. Solutions to ensure the implementation of the law on the right to study of ethnic minorities

Firstly, promoting communication about the role of education, the right to study, and raising the learning consciousness of ethnic minorities.

Promoting communication and advocacy activities throughout the society on the Party’s guidelines, State policies and laws on the role of education and the right to study of ethnic minorities in association with hunger eradication and poverty reduction, raising people’s knowledge, promoting sustainable development of ethnic minority areas. Accordingly, sustainable development of ethnic minority areas must be based on comprehensive, advanced and innovative education and training; people’s right to education is respected and implemented. Focus on establishing conditions to meet the learning needs of ethnic minorities, raising the sense of self-study and self-training of ethnic minorities, build a learning society.

Secondly, perfect the system of policies and laws on the right to study of ethnic minorities; ensuring objectivity, publicity, transparency and democracy in the implementation of policies and laws

Continuing to fully and promptly implement policies and laws to ensure the right to study of ethnic minorities. On the other hand, reviewing and re-evaluating the system of policies and laws, on that basis, propose and recommend the National Assembly, the Government, and relevant ministries and branches to amend, supplement and promulgate policies and laws in accordance with practical requirements. In the implementation process, the organization implementing policies and laws should promptly reward, encourage, and honor organizations and individuals that have been active and have made great contributions to education, ensuring the right to study ethnic minorities. It is necessary to strengthen supervision, inspection, examination and handling of violations; have strict sanctions.

Thirdly, reviewing and re-planning the network of education and training institutions

Concentrating resources, soon solidifying and standardizing school and classroom facilities in ethnic minority areas, meeting the requirements of improving the quality of comprehensive education. In the short term, it is necessary to prioritize investment in building new schools for communes that do not have preschools, overcome the situation of downgraded schools, and focus on investing in physical facilities at individual schools to increase the scale of child mobilization to school; step by step perfecting the network of high schools, ensuring to meet the learning needs of students of all ages. Localities strictly implement regulations and guidelines on ensuring the safety of school facilities; inspect, review and evaluate the quality of construction and renovation of downgraded works. 

Fourthly, building a contingent of teachers and educational administrators to meet the requirements of education and training innovation

Formulating planning and training plans, fostering a contingent of administrators and teachers in accordance with the requirements of educational innovation. Increasing the number of ethinic minority staff and teachers at all levels of management at educational institutions; building a contingent of qualified teachers; doing well in enrolment, linking training with the use of human resources. Properly, fully, and promptly implement teachers and administrators’ regimes and policies.

Fifthly, renewing educational programs at all levels and improving the quality of education and training

Focusing on researching and innovating methods, contents, curriculum and textbooks suitable for ethnic minority students. Gradually improving the quality of teaching to develop the capacity and quality of learners, enhancing social activities, promoting positivity, initiative, and creativity. Building a safe, healthy learning environment, comprehensive development and maximum potential of learners themselves.

Sixthly, developing economy, eradicating hunger, relieving the poor, overcoming barriers and customs

Continuing to implement hunger eradication, poverty reduction, and improvement of living standards of ethnic minorities, focusing on people in mountainous and remoted areas - is a prerequisite condition for ethnic minorities to enjoy the right to study. Speeding up the work of education, and awareness-raising for the people to overcome the barriers of customs and psychology; raising awareness about the role of education access in hunger eradication, poverty reduction and socio-economic development.

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Endnotes:

(1) Constitution in 2013.

(2), (5) Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs: Summary report on law enforcement in the field of ethnicity, 2017.

(3), (4), (7) (8) (9) (10): Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, General Statistics Office: Results of collecting information on the socio-economic status of 53 ethnic minorities in 2019, Statistical Publishing House, Hanoi, 2020, p.45, 47, 74, 82-83, 48, 45.

(6) Ethnic Education Department: Education in ethnic minority and mountainous areas after ten years of implementing the Vietnamese education development strategy, https://moet.gov.vn/tintuc/Pages/tin-tong -hop.aspx?ItemID=6695.

MA. DAO THI TUNG

Academy of Politics Region III

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