Socio-cultural and Ecological Factors Influencing the Acquisition of English of Khmer Students in Vietnam

  • Author / Creator
    Vo, Tai V
  • This qualitative study explores socio-cultural and ecological factors influencing the acquisition of English of Khmer students in Vietnam. Its objective is to assist the Khmer ethnic minority in learning English, thus helping teachers of English, Khmer students and their parents, the Soc Trang Department of Education and Training, the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam, the government of Vietnam, and other stakeholders to better understand and act to improve the learning situation for Khmer students in particular and other ethnic minority students in general. Fifteen Khmer students and four teachers of English who were studying and teaching at a secondary boarding school in Vietnam constituted the target population. The data collection methods included two rounds of focus group interviews with teachers and students, nine classroom observations, and field-notes. Content analysis was used to analyze the transcripts of the interviews, and the data were collected, interpreted, and analyzed by applying a sociocultural constructivist framework through four theoretical-interpretive lenses: Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory of human development, Hornberger’s frameworks and models in language policy and planning, Norton's identity theorizing, and Janks’ critical literacy. The findings in this study produced two chronosystems in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory – 2000 and 2015 – and revealed a number of new factors influencing the learning of English by Khmer students. At the microlevel, the findings revealed that Khmer parents and families could be seen as models of multilingualism and were able to offer financial and spiritual support in learning English while continuing to hold a strong sense of Khmer minority identity, traditional values of culture and language. Moreover, the research found that in the more recent chronosystem, Khmer parents seemed to place more value on schooling and had higher hopes for their children to be more successful in their schooling. At the mesolevel, as compared to the first chronosystem, the results of this study indicated that the participants placed more value on education and now consider English as playing an important role in Vietnam’s participation in the global economy. Furthermore, the study revealed that the student participants, but not their teachers, recognized the absence of the official minority group home culture in the textbook in Vietnam, suggesting a desire for inclusion. Meanwhile, all the student participants in this study acknowledged and appreciated their teachers’ assistance in learning English. The study results also indicated that Khmer students seemed not to have many opportunities to gain access to using Vietnamese or English outside the school due to the boarding school structure and regulations. Additionally, the research found that teachers of English at this boarding school felt under pressure to cover the curriculum in teaching English, which admittedly limits their attention to their students’ needs. Further, this study found that all the study participants expressed an awareness of the economic value of English for both communication and economic growth in Vietnam. In the exosystem, the findings indicated that English had a powerful influence on the imagined future careers of participants; they believed that English will create greater further education opportunities for them both personally and socially and is essential for improving the socioeconomic status of Vietnam. Finally, at the macrolevel, the research findings indicated the indirect effects of global trends on the students and the government. Language policies in Vietnam brought students, teachers, schools, and the whole society both opportunities and challenges. More importantly, the research findings suggest that Khmer living in urban areas had more access to English than their counterparts in rural areas. This study also provides some educational suggestions for policy makers, textbook authors, school administrators, and teachers as well as for future research.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Education
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Mandin, Lucille (Campus Saint-Jean)
    • Blair, Heather (Elementary Education)
    • Dunn, William (Secondary Education)
    • Kouritzin, Sandra (Faculty of Education)
    • Wu, Joe (Elementary Education)