Muong Livelihoods and the Role of Education in Their Development: A case study of a Muong community in Cam Thuy District, Thanh Hoa Province, Vietnam
This dissertation is an attempt to clarify the role played by education in the livelihoods of the Muong minority people who live in remote mountainous areas of Vietnam. The argument focuses on critical factors that impact on livelihood performance such as livelihood assets, government policies and non-government programs. Indigenous mountain people, including the Muong, throughout their history have relied on natural resources to secure their livelihood. In the past it was thought that they lived sustainably in harmony with their environment but the impact of globalisation and the growth of the monetary economy has changed all this. Formerly isolated communities have been increasingly drawn into the modern state’s system of governance and this has resulted in reforms that, while considered good for the nation, have disadvantaged highland peoples. The views of policy makers and program designers are too often quite at odds with the needs of local indigenous people. This study was conducted in Muot village in the Thanh Hoa Province of Vietnam. In the village 98% of the villagers are of Muong descent. The research used a mixed method approach which included the use of questionnaires to collect quantitative survey data from 154 of the total of 198 households (population 678) and 75 school aged children. I was also permitted to access data from a household poverty survey initiated and authorized by the provincial committee in which I participated as an enumerator. All of this data was supplemented by qualitative engagements with both the students and householders who had participated in the personal surveys. I used a handful of participant observation techniques including informal interviews, observations made in the course of household visits, village walks, and otherwise engaging with villagers as they went about their daily activities, and focus group discussions. The mixed method approach enabled me to answer my principal questions: what are the current challenges faced by Muong in securing a livelihood? How effective are government policies in promoting economic development? How do they respond to government policies? What role does education play in Muong socioeconomic development? The content of both the quantitative and qualitative data collected was summarized in a format acceptable to SPSS, analyzed and subjected to critical analysis. Understanding what indigenous Muong need is truly important for both scholars and policy makers in Thanh Hoa province as well as Vietnam as a whole. This study found that human capital is the most significant factor in improving sustainable livelihoods. It concluded that the case for improving human resources in remote mountainous areas is paramount and that the government and local people should do more to make the best of education. Integration into the national economy and mainstream life of the nation is inevitable and education has the capacity to make a major contribution to easing this process.