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Government urged to offer more textbooks

Two nonprofit organisations are urging the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Economy and Finance to increase the number of textbooks for high school students, saying that an ongoing shortage is limiting their abilities.

The Khmer Institute for National Development (KIND) and the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability-East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) launched a monthlong social media awareness campaign yesterday, citing a report that more than 85 per cent of high school students do not have access to a complete set of textbooks.

“We want students to have 100 per cent of the books. We have offered recommendations; if [the government spends] $7 million, every student will get textbooks” as long as the books aren’t sold first to the black market, ANSA-EAP representative Sorn Chey said.

The two organisations said that the shortages of the basic books mean students are unable to “understand the lessons [or] do homework on time, and leads them to drop their studies”.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen, citing tougher regulations to crack down on cheating, predicted that not many students would pass the grade 12 national exam. His prediction came true; however, along with cheating, a lack of textbooks is one of many woes afflicting the education system. And it is not one that looks like it will be fixed any time soon, the groups said.

Lim Sotharith, chief of planning and textbook supplies at the Ministry of Education, said $6 million had been set aside to print between four million and five million books for primary through high school levels for the 2014-2015 academic year.

The figures are higher than those for 2013-2014, he said, and the ministry wants to encourage parents who can afford it to purchase textbooks that are legally produced for sale.

“In principle, this year, two students will still [have to share] a set of books. I support everyone getting a set, but we have to be approved by the ministry management,” Sotharith said. “We want guardians’ participation to buy textbooks for [students] because we believe people [who are better off] can afford them.”

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