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Informal Education: Learning from cultural and historical sites in Phnom Penh

Learning doesn’t happen only in the classroom, it happens all the time and everywhere you are.  This is the concept behind what is known as  “Tour study”.

“Tour study” is an extra curriculum that general-education schools, especially high schools in Phnom Penh, provide for students to visit, and learn from, cultural and historical sites including the National Museum, the Royal Palace, Tuol Sleng museum and the National Library.

Travelling on a bus together to learn something new outside the classoom is an enjoyable activity that can benefit students at the same time.

Chap Pheananimul, a 16-year-old grade 12 student from Preah Sisowath High School, said it had improved her knowledge, as she could learn something outside the classroom.

For example, she went to the National Museum and learned about the history of Cambodian artifacts.

“It is very useful. I am happy with the program. I can understand clearly from the guide,” she said, adding that she wanted to go to Tuol Sleng museum to learn about the genocidal regime and to the National Library to gain more knowledge on other topics.

Moul Suheng, Preah Sisowath’s high school principal, says tour study is a program of the Ministry’s Department of Education in Phnom Penh, explaining that his school allows grade 11 students to visit various places every year.

“We have other places for students to visit, as outlined in this youth program of the education department,” he said.

The number of students visiting the National Museum is up to 3,000 for the first six months of 2011, a 10 per cent increase on last year, according to Prak Khmren, the director of administration at the Office of the Museum.

“The schools want students to see real artifacts after they learn about them at school. This helps them learn about Khmer arts, culture and heritage,” Prak Khmren said.

According to an official from the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, the number of Cambodian visitors, especially students, visiting the museum has risen by 30 per cent compared with last year.

Ke Soponnaka, director of the museum, said he had disseminated information to students and schools to encourage them to visit the museum, explaining that the young generation can barely believe there was such an atrocious regime in Cambodia.

“We do not want our country to fall into that brutal history again. Students are the bamboo of the country,” he said.

Tour study for high-school students has been practised for several years by the Ministry of Education.

Ou Eng, secretary-general of education at the Ministry of Education, said  it complemented the lessons and theories  students learned at high school.

As students study history, for example, they can visit places related to history.  They can also learn and understand the work of the government and the National Assembly.

“It is very important for students. A lot of countries are now practising this tour study,” he said. He emphasised, however, that the Education Ministry needed more funds to support the program now and in the future.

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