Viet Nam – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations
General Assembly
Distr.: General
24 January 2011
Original: English
While there has been some progress with regard to the rights of religious minorities,
certain problems remain, some of which may constitute denial of religious freedoms and
other serious violations of civil rights. Freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the
right of peaceful assembly must
be respected and protected.
IV. Language and education
43. Vietnamese is the official language of Viet Nam, the medium of instruction in
schools and of administration. Many minority communities in isolated and remote locations
do not frequently interact in Vietnamese. Many speak ethnic languages in almost all family
and social interactions, and others, particularly older generations, speak and understand
only a little Vietnamese. Only 24 ethnic minority languages have written scripts, which
creates particular challenges for their preservation.
44. Article 7 of the Education Law stipulates that Vietnamese is the official language to
be used in schools and other educational institu
tions, and that the State should enable ethnic
minority people to learn their spoken and written languages in order to preserve and
develop their ethnic cultural identity, helping pupils from ethnic minorities easily absorb
knowledge when they study in schools and ot
her educational institu
tions. The teaching and
learning of these languages is to be conducted in accordance with the Government
regulations. Despite positive provisions relatin
g to minority languages, however, in practice
all children are taught in Vietnamese (other than those taught in the context of pilot projects
initiated in cooperation with the United Nati
ons Children’s Fund (UNICEF)). Minority
languages are taught in some schools only as separate subjects and not as the medium of
45. Ethnic Khmer representatives provided information to the independent expert in
which they alleged restrictions on the Khmer
language in schools a
nd public places. They
claimed that Khmer was not offered even as a
separate subject in schools in Khmer regions
in southern Viet Nam, and th
at the teaching of the Khmer language was therefore limited to
the home or to those who attend Pagoda or
religious schools. Th
ey also claimed that
ethnic Khmer had faced restrictions on their
activities to use, teach or promote the Khmer
language, and that the authorities imposed strict restrictions on the publication of books or
documents in Khmer.
46. The Government contested these allega
tions and stated that it took steps to
encourage the preservation and development of the languages of ethnic minorities. It added
that the national television channel had daily programmes in 13 languages of ethnic
minorities, including Khmer. National radio had
a separate station for 11 ethnic minority
languages (VOV4), including Khmer. Daily and weekly newspapers and electronic news
portals are also available in Khmer.
47. According to a UNICEF briefing note on ethnic minority people’s right to use their
mother tongue as languages of instruction in school provided to the independent expert, the
primary school completion rate among ethnic minority children is just 60.6 per cent
compared to 86.4 per cent for the majority Kinh. For some of the most disadvantaged ethnic
minorities, the completion rate is far lower.
Beyond primary education, the situation
becomes even more serious for ethnic minoritie
s, with far fewer prog
ressing to secondary
level. Disparities between ethnic minority groups also become more pronounced. While
large minorities, including the Hoa, the Tay and the Muong, have better educational
outcomes, some groups, such as the H’mong, Bana and H’re, demonstrate particularly poor
education outcomes.
48. A survey has revealed that, in 30 per cent of ethnic minority households, at least one
child had dropped out of school before completion of a grade, compared to 16 per cent of
Contrary to the view that cultural factors within minority communities have the
most significant impact on drop-out rates, mi
norities reported that excessive school fees,
World Bank, Ethnicity and
Development in Vietnam, 2009,
p. 25.

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