An Exploratory Study of Attitudes toward Bilingual Education in Gia Lai province of Vietnam
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This case study examines the attitudes of Jarainese people (an indigenous group in Gia Lai province of Vietnam) towards bilingual education related to bilingualism, the maintenance of the native language, its use in their own communities, and its perceived importance within formal schooling. The research employed a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods by which the data were collected. Quantitative data were obtained via 345 questionnaires administered to Jarainese students (N=173) and their grandparents and parents (N=172). Qualitative data were obtained via individual interviews of 13 parents and 5 focus group interviews with students. The qualitative data analyses were reported in three narratives as examples of the views of parents, and as thematic interpretations of the student focus groups. The findings reported in this thesis revealed the high degree of ethnic and cultural identity reported through the attitudes of the Jarainese people towards the use of the mother tongue and its maintenance. Jarainese people use their mother tongue to consolidate their ethnic and cultural identity and solidarity. However, the results revealed that Jarainese children tend to use more Vietnamese in their daily life whereas their parents and grandparents retain their oral native language. Additionally, there was a low level of self-reported literacy in Jarainese across the individuals surveyed. The findings disclosed that both languages are seen as important by the Jarainese people. They indicate that Jarainese people do not reject Vietnamese, because it is considered as a language of educational, social and economic advantages and advancement; however, they show the desire of the Jarainese people to affirm their cultural identity by retaining their native language. Despite this desire, the results demonstrated how impacts from the social milieu such as mass media, education and national dominance of Vietnamese hinder the maintenance of Jarainese. The findings confirm the results of other research in the field concerning the benefits and challenges of promoting bilingual development and preserving the native language. The results also confirm a link between demographic dimensions such as level of education, occupation, and living areas, and language attitudes. Furthermore, parents’ attitudes seem to influence their children’s perspectives toward bilingualism. In conclusion, this case study provides further evidence for the importance of values and knowledge related to bilingualism, as well as the need for bilingual development. This evidence is taken from a relatively unique context of the study: i.e., the communist context of Vietnam and under-studied indigenous minority groups in this area of the world. Hence, implications of the findings for bilingual education and regional language policy consideration are discussed. It recommends that the Vietnamese Government and education sector should pay greater attention to, and provide more support for, Jarainese people’s struggles to provide Jarainese children with minority language education. In addition, it is important to specify that a bilingual education program and a regional language policy should be considered and implemented in order to create environments in which Jarainese – Vietnamese bilingual children can develop and promote their bilingual proficiency and knowledge of bilingualism.