Would you let your child study at a state school or a private school? This question is one well-to-do families in Cambodia often consider. The growing number of private schools in the Kingdom shows they must be offering something state schools are not able to.
Meak Chharasmei, a director at Chea Sim Santhormok High School recognises that some private schools have advantages in terms of better security and more modern equipment such as computers and air-conditioners. However, he says that outstanding students are not dependant on where they study, whether it’s a state or private school. The most important aspect is the quality of the students themselves.
He adds that when students have motivation to study, have high commitment and are able to manage their time appropriately they can become outstanding students. Moreover, parents and teachers also play an important role in enhancing students’ ability to study.
“Parents have to encourage their children by giving them incentives when they are studying hard and getting good marks and teachers need to be professional and know well how to educate students,” he says.
Chhay Samrithy, a primary school teacher at Chak Angre Phum 3 School, says that students who study at private schools are mostly middle class and rich people. She points out that some parents send their children to private school because they think private-school teachers have more time to pay attention to their children. Added to this, teachers in state schools have less salary than private school teachers, she says.
Khy Kim Chhorng, 17, who studies at a private school in Phnom Penh, says that her parents support her to study at a private school because private schools are more comfortable and safe. “I think private schools provide me professional skills and the good quality that I want,” she adds.
However, Lim Shev Mey, a student in grade 11 at Chea Sim Samaky High School, says: “It is not a case of which school I study at. Therefore, studying at a private or a public school, it is still the same as long as I study hard.”
Phun Han Sin, a deputy director at the Department of Education says even though the number of private schools keeps increasing, they cannot compare to the amount of public schools. He says there 1189 secondary schools and 407 high schools in Cambodia. However, he doesn’t know the exact number of private schools since some schools have not registered.
Some parents are afraid their children won’t attend class regularly, so they send them to private schools
He also says that most students who study at private schools from rich families and their parents intend to send their children to study abroad. “They are able to study two languages at the same time, Khmer and English, but they have to pay a lot of money for studying at private schools,” says Phun Han Sin.
Back at Chea Sim Santhormok High School, Meak Chharasmei observes that students who are likely to skip school and do not study hard mostly want to study in private schools. “Some parents are afraid of their children won’t attend class regularly, so they send them to the private schools,” he adds.
To build trust of parents and students and to improve the quality of the school, Phun Han Sin says the school policies are being strengthened year by year. He adds that schools’ main gates will be closed at 8 am and if any students want to leave school early, they have to inform to the school principle.
In addition, Meak Chharasmei says to make sure students understand and do not ignore the school’s policies, in every monthly test there will appear one question regarding policies. He adds there will be a monthly meeting between the class monitors in order to strengthen class discipline. He is optimistic that the school will soon have a laboratory for students to practice chemistry.