Saturday, 12 July 2008

Champa language schools in Ninh Binh Thuan Vietnam

The Curriculum of Cham Language Subject
In NinhThuan Province, Vietnam, the Reality and Solution
I. Introduction
I. 1. Population
The population of the Chamic group is around 1,700,000 people who are called Champa. They reside in following places including smaller ethnic groups. There are only approximately 133,000 Chams who live in the coastal area of Central Vietnam centered in hamlets at provinces of BinhDinh, PhuYen, NinhThuan, BinhThuan, DongNai, HoChiMinh City, TayNinh and ChauDoc. There are about 1,064,000 (Vietnamese census 1999) in the highlands, which consist of various ethnic groups such as Rhade, Jarai, Hroi, Chru, Raglai, and Kaho. There are over 500,000 Cham Muslims in Cambodia, who reside in Phnongpenh and along the Mekong and the Tonlé Sap rivers in provinces of Krache, KongpongCham, KongpongChnang, Kongpongthom and Battambang. Some Cham were found in Lao, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Europe, USA, and Hainan island China1. This paper focuses on the 100,000 Cham people and their language in NinhThuan province, which has a total population of 650,000 people.
II. 2. Languages and Literature
Cham is unusual among Austronesian Languages. It was derived from language of the Hindu Kingdom of Champa. The old Cham script was found in Vocanh stele in the second century. During the period of retrogression and collapse of the Champa kingdom, the Champa people fled and scattered across many places in Southeast Asia: Hainan Island, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and within Vietnam. Because of separated living, their language developed into many subgroups in the Chamic family. They are recognized as two main groups: Eastern Cham is spoken in Vietnam and Western Cham in Cambodian, which is the largest group.
Cham literature can be divided into ancient and modern. The ancient literature is inscribed on stones, which discussed religion and history. The modern literatures are written on a local species of leaf (the luntar leaves) or on homemade papers, by using ink made from soot or calcified berries. Modern Cham literature can be further divided into those related to religion, black magic, and secular. Secular literature comprised of local writings, stories, legends, parables, poems and epics. Typical epics are Pram Dit Pram Lak, which is a summary of the Ramayana, Akayet Dewa Mano (similar to the Malay Dewa Mandu legend), Akayet Inra Patra (similar to the Malay Inderaputera legend) and Akayet Umrup. They are all very popular among the Cham people in Vietnam. This secular literature also contains several texts on historical events, legends and royal family history. There are also texts on medicine, embryology, pharmacopoeia, and agricultural and building techniques. Finally, there are texts on traditions and moral conducts.
II. The reality of Cham language Curriculums:
II. 1. In elementary school
The Cham language curriculums in Vietnam are the same for all of schools in the region, based on the specific students, the purpose and condition of class organization. The program started in 1978 at grade 1 in two places and covered the whole classes in primary schools for the first time since 1985. Until 1995 the program extended all primary schools in Cham regions. In the school year 2001-2002 there were about 10.000 students and 300 teachers taking part in the program.
The primary school teachers have to follow a specific syllabus that is stipulated in the textbook in Cham language with traditional script (Akhar Thrah letters). Cham language is taught 3 hours a week for grade 1 to grade 5 as a subject among other 9 compulsory subjects, which are taught in national language (Vietnamese) in primary schools. The purpose of the program is to read and write Cham language fluently and access in national language to get higher education. Since 2002-2003, the number of students was large but there were only 2 hours a week, and there were only 50 teachers taught this program.
II. 2. In adult classes
Adult classes were only held in 1983 in 2 villages. These were night classes, which lasted in two-month courses for all those who couldn’t write or read Cham language. The program includes the language content of 5 years in primary school and spends about 80 class hours stipulated in the textbook. There are two phases: studies of sounds and words, and studies of literature. The purpose of the program is to eliminate illiteracy of mother tongue in Cham community.
II. 3. In teachers’ training classes
There are four kinds of training teacher courses:
Teacher student courses
These classes are hold in summer time in Teachers’ Training College and taught by an instructor from Cham Textbooks Compiling Committee. It lasts about 216 hours in two months (Can, 1999). The curriculum was designed into two parts, linguistic content and method of language teaching with practice of teaching real lessons. Finishing this course, teacher students, gain ability to read and write fluently the Cham language and they can teach from grade one to grade three. If they continue selves study Cham, they can teach until grade 5 and other kind of Cham language courses. The courses have been organized every two years since 1990. Until 2001, over 300 teachers graduated from these courses.
Basic Cham Language Courses
These courses, which are for the Cham students, teachers and adults, last 5 weeks continuously at CTCC in Phanrang NinhThuan province. It is an introduction of Cham phonetic, phonology and word formation as they relate to other aspects of language.
Advanced Cham Language Courses
These courses are for the Cham language teachers who are teaching in elementary schools. It covers all aspects of language and method of language teaching. It lasts 4 weeks continuously at CTCC in Phanrang NinhThuan province.
Regular Adjustment courses
These courses are usually held 10 days before new school year for all Cham language teachers. It lasts 2 days to update what had changed during the previous school year to meet the actual requirement of bilingual education. It is also the chance for the teachers from different areas to share experiences, conveniences and difficulties in learning and teaching. In this chance, the awards for excellent students and teachers are delivered to remark their effort for the whole previous school year (Trai, 2004).
Moreover, in recent years, the need of understanding the Cham language has occurred in security and military officials. CTCC has launched some 2- month courses of Cham language for these objects, together with Vietnamese and foreign researchers.
III. The trend of mother language curriculum
III. 1 In Viet nam:
Beside Cham program, there are eleven others for other ethnic groups, which had mother language teaching in primary schools, such as curriculum in Hmong, Tay, Nung, Thai, Jarai, Ede, Churu, Kaho, Bahna, Khmer, and Hoa. According to statistic report of National Committee, there are eleven million ethnic minority people accounting for 13.8% of the country’s population. Including twelve ethnic groups with the population from over one hundred thousand to one million. As vice Director of Center for Minority Educational Studies revealed that all 53 ethnic groups in Vietnam had their own languages. Ministry of Education and Training are now building eight language programs for eight groups to teach in elementary and boarding schools, guiding to compile more than hundred bilingual books for this field to use in these schools. In order to support this program there are many dialect and comparison dictionaries both Minority language – Viet and Viet – Minority language. Together with the programs built by local government, there are now twenty- five provinces applying the mother language programs in elementary schools (Moet, 2004).
III. 2. In Hawaii
It is Immersion Hawaiian program in primary, middle and high schools. The movements, which first began in Hawaiian language preschools called the Punana Leo in 1984. Subsequently, the State of Hawaii Department of Education accepted Hawaiian Language Immersion Program taught in public schools in 1987. Now, there are 16 schools in Honolulu and 28 schools in other islands partly teaching this program. The education in Hawaiian has covered from grade 1 to grade 12 at first time in 1999. In theses classes English is not taught until grade 6. In these schools, there are both curriculum in English and Hawaiian. About 30 – 50% of total students of those schools attend the Hawaiian program.
The Hawaiian language program is taught in the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and Hilo for BA and MA degree (Kamana, & Wilson, 1996).
III. 3. In Singapore
Mother tongue teaching is stable and helpful to strengthen Singapore’s Education system, which lies in its bilingual policy. Every child chooses one’s mother tongue Malay, Mandarin, or Tamil to study as a subject in schools together with English, from elementary to pre-university. Those mother languages are taught in higher levels such as, college and graduate programs. Almost every citizen speaks his or her mother tongue (Chinese, Malay or Tamil) and English eloquently. This can only be achieved when the education system and environment is carefully planned to nurture the growth of bilingualism in a child (Singapore Education, 2003).
III. 4. In Cambodia
Nearly all ethnic minority females and over 80% of the males in highland Cambodia were illiterate, and most their children had never attended school. In order to improve the situation, a Bilingual Pilot Project conducted in Ratanakiri since 1997, which covered a total of 4 languages: Tampuan, Brao, Krung, and Kavet. It uses a model of instruction that begins in the vernacular and progresses to Khmer so that students learn to read and write both languages and get in mainstream education. With the aim to bring “education for all” plan and good quality of education for children by the end of 2015, Cambodia Government may apply bilingual education more broadly, as it is the means help both indigenous minority children and adults approach national educational system (Chap, & Thomas, 2003).
IV. Achievement and limitation of Cham language program
IV. 1. Achievement
Cham Language program in NinhThuan province is considered the most successful program of bilingual education in Vietnam. All 9,524 Cham elementary students attended this program in 351 classes and 242 in charge teachers. The percentage of over average score is 87.9 (Trai, 2004). The good result of the program manifests in the following aspects:
IV. 1. 1. Policy, fund from UNESCO and MOET effort
Vietnam's Constitution in 1946, 1959, 1980 and 1992 has stated consistent aims in the article 5 that: “Ethnic minorities have the right to receive compulsory and free primary and lower-secondary education in their languages, use their own languages and scripts, maintain and develop their good traditions, practices, custom and culture”.
In 1982 Ministry Of Education and Training (MOET) planned to draw up curriculum, rewrite textbooks and train teachers for Cham language teaching program in Cham provinces.
In January 1996, a workshop was conducted with experts and key Cham language teachers to produce bilingual curriculum materials and accompanying teacher education modules for use in the Multigrade and Bilingual Education Project. This workshop resulted in the production of bilingual, localized literacy materials in the form of Cham Big Books as a kind of pilot experiment, which aimed at developing an appropriate model for further expansion in the whole country where applicable[1]. Also In 1996, MOET extended the Multigrade and Bilingual Education Project into “Minority Education Project”, with the cooperation of foreign experts from Australia, the sponsored from UNICEF (The Universal Primary Education for Ethnic Minority Children Project - a UNICEF project), and World Bank. The project will be concluded in Summer 2005.
IV. 1. 2. Good textbooks, well-trained teachers
In order to manage the program effectively, the local government set up the Cham Textbooks Compiling Committee (CTCC) belonging to the Education and Training Service of NinhThuan province. Textbooks were written at first time in 1978. They were updated annually and published in 1985. In 2003 the new textbooks from grade 1 to grade 5 were published. They were relevant and reasonable to pupils’ perceptive abilities.
Teachers were trained in the Teacher’s training college of the province and summer courses at CTCC. The pool of language teachers improves visible in terms of quality and quantity. Around 500 Cham language teachers are ready to teach hundreds of Cham elementary classes.
IV. 1. 3. The involvement of community
Through many activities related to the teaching and learning Cham language in primary schools, the stable role of Cham language in socioeconomic lives improves visibly, such as:
a. The Cham people are proud of their native tongue and willing to use it in daily life, in families and communities.
b. The percentage of persons being proficient in reading and writing the Cham language higher and higher.
c. The number of Cham children gains fluency in their mother tongue grow every year, about 10,000 Cham children have chances to learn their mother tongue each year, even some mixed blood or other ethnic group children living in Cham regions studied this program.
IV. 2. Limitation
IV. 2. 1. Lack of support instruction at home
Because there wasn’t any Cham language teaching and learning course in NinhThuan until 1983, almost Cham adults didn’t know how to read and write the language well. The courses for adults are so few that almost parents didn’t know how the instruction in classes was going on. They couldn’t help their kids to study Cham language at home.
IV. 2. 2. Short of class time
In school year 2003-2004, the class hour of Cham language subject for grade 1, and 2 is only 2 hours per week, instead of 4 hours per week as it used to be in textbooks. And for grade 3, 4 and 5 the amount of time will be reduced in years to come. Therefore, time for children to contact with Cham language is so little, only 2 hours a week. While the whole other times of day, they contact with national language in class and almost their leisure time in front of TV also in national language, they will forget Cham learned in schools. This will cause seriously harm to the policy of fostering bilingual status in education and community, which has got somehow stableness since the first persistent effort of local government and people on this program.
Moreover, when they graduate from primary school and enter secondary school, which there is no Cham class, they will forget Cham language.
IV. 2. 3. Teach as a subject teacher, lack of knowledge exchanges
Another defective point, which makes the program unsuccessful as expected, is that one teacher teaches many classes. The language teacher has no chance and motivation to improve his or her skills and curriculum. This mechanism limits the stimulation of sharing methods and experiences in Cham teaching and learning among language teachers. As a result, the initial achievement of bilingual education, which is not enough time to take shape, suffers threat of unavoidable decline. V. Some solutions to keep Cham language in progress
V. 1. Enhance mass media
To revive a minority language into stable function in its native community is not easy. Just language teaching in primary schools and using in family are not enough. Lack of its usage in local mass media, which is recognized as communicative models, restricts the motivation of developing the language function. The local should lengthen the period of TV or radio broadcasting in the Cham. At least one magazine or paper is published in Cham. The producing films and karaoke in Cham language should be strengthened. At first translation literature should be noticed to meet the emergent needs of students and communities.
V. 2. Launch adult classes
In order to help Cham adult review their mother language, classes for adult should be held in all villages. They will both satisfy the requirement of sweeping illiteracy program and support instruction of their children at home. This is necessary to build bilingual environment in community.
V. 3. Develop curriculum
Cham language needs a relevant curriculum to overcome those above limitations. Some adjustment should apply as soon as possible as: Cham language should be taught 4 hours a week for primary school; Cham language program should last through high school to grade 12; Certificate in Cham language is condition for ethnic minority students to attend University.
If we have effective measures and curriculum to realize the language policy, the Cham language will live longer with its community and contribute remarkable role to the function of social interaction and community development.
Can, Q.D. (1999). Textbook of Cham Language in Pedagogy College, Department of Education and Training of NinhThuan province.
Can, Q. D. (2004). Champa. Language. Language Documentation Project. University of Hawaii at Manoa, from website,
Chap, H. C., The, I., & Thomas, A. (2003). Bilingual Education in Cambodia. Presented at Conference on Language development, Language Revitalization and Multilingual Education in Minority Communities in Asia, Bangkok, Thailand, 6-8 November 2003, from:
Inrasara. (1995). Cham literature – Outline and collection book I. Publisher of national Culture of Hanoi, Vietnam.
Kamana, K. & Wilson, W. H. (1996). Hawaiian language programs. Stabilizing Indigenous Languages. Center for Excellence in Education, Northern Arizona University, from
Marilyn, W., & Paul, M. (1996). Teacher education partnerships in Vietnam, Australian Teacher Education Association Conference, University of Melbourne.
MOET (2004). Teaching mother and national language for minority students: Better apply principle of bilingual teaching.
Singapore Education. (2003). Singapore education branch. Singapore tourist board, from
The, B. K. (2003). Multilingual education in the community of minority peoples of Vietnam. Presented at Conference on Language development, language revitalization and multilingual education in minority community in Asian, 6- 8th November 2003, Bangkok, Thailand.
Trai, L. M. (2004). Annual report of Cham Textbook Compiling Committee, photocopy.
Ty, N.V. (1998). Report at The 20th Anniversary of CTCC foundation, photocopy.

1 Can, Q. D. (2004). Champa. Language. Language Documentation Project. University of Hawaii at Manoa, from website,
[1] Marilyn, W., & Paul, M. (1996). Teacher education partnerships in Vietnam, Australian Teacher Education Association Conference, University of Melbourne.

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