With speakers of over one hundred languages, the Lao PDR is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse nations in Southeast Asia. However, its education policy stipulates that Lao is the language of education at all levels of schooling. Non-ethnic Lao students are thus required to learn literacy in a language which they do not speak. Within this context, teachers must find ways to balance policy constraints with the needs of their students and with their own beliefs and values around language use. This paper examines talk around reading texts in three ethnic minority primary school classrooms in Laos. It demonstrates that the Lao language-in-education policy results in a multiplicity of literacy teaching responses ranging from almost exclusive use of Lao, through combined use of Lao and the mother tongue, to - surprisingly - almost exclusive use of the mother tongue to teach officially prescribed Lao texts.
|Compare: a journal of comparative and international education
|Published - 2011