Friday, April 2, 2010


The Cambodian education system leaves a lot to be desired. Bribery, cheating and lack of funding are just some of the problems. For instance, teachers are paid an absolute mockery of a salary (even by Cambodian standards) as they are paid about $30-$50 a month (my old moto taxi driver was a teacher but decided to move to Phnom Penh to moto taxi instead as it paid more!). Children also only go to school for half a day to cope with the fact that there are so many children in Cambodia to be educated.

Cambodian teaching staff are generally badly qualified or corrupt. Hardly surprising when you consider the salary. In fact most (if not all) of the teachers in the state system charge their children for attendance within the class. If the children don't pay the fee then they will "fail" papers or simply be ignored. Clearly this stops poorer children from attending school. Sometimes teachers will not teach the national curriculum during school hours - They will teach it after school in private fee paying classes - so unless you pay you won't have the opportunity to learn the material for the exams and even then, if you want to pass an exam, you have to pay. Of course wealthy parents must love this. Your child can be whatever it wants to be - and get the grades - so long as the price is right. The Khmer Rouge murdered anyone who was educated and so clearly it is going to take a while for the country to build its education system up again but given that we are now thirty or so years on from the Khmer Rouge progress is clearly exceptionally slow.

What is very pleasing is when a person has the initiative to build a school based on true values, honesty and treats its staff appropriately. This is what one of the centres for disadvantaged children has done in the heart of Phnom Penh.

Although it is still at the early stages of development the school has been set up and the children who live at the centre (who are in grades 1-6) have been removed from the state education system and are now studying with real achievements.

The classrooms

The school is training its teachers not to teach in the old methods employed by the state schools but in more modern ways - through games, field trips, interactive learning etc. The classrooms are decorated and the environment is a fun (and safe) place for the children to learn and they are at school all day giving them a real chance to think about what they are learning and spend more time on more difficult concepts.
The children's centre is presently in the process of constructing a secondary school as well so that the older children (who are still in state school) can be educated in this way too.

Lunch and playtime


Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle

I really liked this article and the pics. I am a New Zealand teacher looking to move to Cambodia and hopefully make some kind of difference... any advice you could give would be welcome.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle

I am doing a project on Cambodia and I found this sight very interesting and helpful

Thank You