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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A day in a life of a public kindergarten teacher

A day in a life of a public kindergarten teacher

The way we treat people and machines is quite different. Machines need to be dealt with in a technical manner, but with people, we need to have good communication strategies in order to convince them to do something.  But what about convincing and controlling four-year-old pupils?  

A classroom three metres long is decorated with paper shapes in vibrant colours.  The lunar month and the calendar month are displayed on the wall to the left.

On the other side of the wall are drawings  and cartoons that look knowledgeable and fun.  There are about 30 pupils in the class who make a lot of noise.

Toek La Ork kindergarten is a state kindergarten in the Tould Kork district. The school fee is 10, 000 riel a year. Pupils study only in the morning from 7:30 to 10:30. The pupils range from three to five years old.

Soy Ek, the 44 year-old teacher, is sitting on a small chair. She calls one little boy to come to the blackboard and write in Khmer the letter “korក”, then calls a little girl.

Then she asks all the pupils to compare the letter-writing on the board and decide which one is better.

I’m surprised that, even though they are very young, they can tell their teacher which letter is better. When I was their age, I knew nothing about Khmer letters. What is more, I am told the teacher manages to control the pupils so they don’t fight with one another by giving credit to pupils who behave well in the class. The teacher also reads a good-kid policy to them at the end of every session.

“Kindergarten class these days is very modern; they learn letters very fast,” says Bun Thy, another teacher who is 36 years old.

In each class there are two teachers; usually there are 25 to 40 pupils per class.

Bun Thy claims that pupils do not attend class regularly. Some move, so they can’t stay in school. She explains that in this new system, the teachers introduce Khmer letters during their time at school. That is why the children in kindergarten manage to learn fast when they are in grade one.

While Bun Thy takes her turn to teach, Soy Ek corrects the homework. Soy Ek says raucously that the teachers need to take some the time to correct the children’s work.
Immediately, a little girl raises her hand and tells Soy Ek that she wants to pee. To me, this is a very respectful, but in the class the pupils are so playful that it makes me feel tired even though I’m staying still.

Recalling the first time she taught, nine years ago, Bun Thy laughs and says she was too shy to call her pupils “kid”, as if they were her own children, even though she didn’t have any children yet.
“When I first held this position, I wanted to cry”, she says.



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