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Published on Mar 4, 2015

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Cambodia’s Grade 12 students took their final test in August 2014, only 26% of them passed. Tighter security meant students could not cheat. Students who failed the tests could take the test again. The second time about 18% of the students passed the test. Students taking the test this year know they will have to study hard to do well. Final year student Rattana says he and his classmates know they will not be able to cheat on their exams. In the past, some teachers would sell the exam questions to students. Why was last year different from earlier years? Hang Chuon Naron began serving as Education Minister in 2014. He wants to end corruption in Cambodia’s schools. He thinks that education reform is necessary for Cambodia’s economic development. He says the country needs to give its students better skills. Mr. Naron’s policies include better pay and training for teachers. In May 2015, teachers’ salaries will increase from an average of $137.50 a year to $162.50. The education budget will increase and new training will help educators better teach critical thinking and problem solving skills. Another problem is that the usual primary school class has 46 students to one teacher. This is the highest student-teacher number outside of Africa. The Asian Development Bank is giving $90 million to Cambodia over the next five years. The money will go to help students stay in school, and to improve the quality of education there.

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World Education Cambodia - Our Work

About Cambodia

Although its civil war ended 20 years ago, Cambodia still struggles with the legacy of that era including poorly trained human resources, a fragile legal environment, weakened social structures, and an infrastructure that is far behind other countries in the region. More than 50% of the population is under age 18, and only about a third of youth make it to the end of the basic education cycle (Grade 9). A national teacher shortage of approximately 14,000 ensures that educational quality remains very low. In addition, a poorly trained and under-resourced education roster of education professionals, coupled with a largely unskilled, poorly prepared workforce and high rates of internal migration, point to the need for further development of its education sector to meet the needs of in-school youth, out-of-school youth, and rural adults in formal education and nonformal education, including life skills and livelihoods.

Where We Work

World Education currently works in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, Kratie, Siem Reap, and Mondulkiri, with its central office in Phnom Penh.

Measurements of education are difficult because one nation’s standards may be different from those of other nations, and the population  structure may be quite different also. However one metric applied by the UN is “enrollment in tertiary education” and this takes the percentage of people of tertiary education age (18 – 24 say) who are actually enrolled in tertiary education.

By these standards Cambodia ranks 116th out of 148 nations measured by UNESCO (2011) and reported by the World Economic Forum – a few positions lower than neighbouring Laos.

Earlier UNESCO figures (2005) estimated that around 2.8% of tertiary aged Cambodians are enrolled in tertiary education. (In the USA the figure is 72%.)

This situation is changing, and I think quite rapidly since 2005, but Cambodia has some catching up to do. When asked to evaluate the problems hindering economic development, the World Economic Forum respondents rated the “inadequately educated workforce” as the third greatest problem after corruption and inefficient Government bureaucracy.

A deeper problem is the urban-rural split, with university being more accessible for comparatively rich urban families, and out of reach for the rural poor. This issue has the potential to create a harsh class division in Cambodia, on top of the nation’s other social challenges. It is a key reason why at Savong’s School we established a full scholarship for the top students – and this provides for university enrollment (over a 4 year degree) as well as transport, a laptop and a living allowance over the 4 years.

More about the university scholarship – click here.

See also