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Pre-school provides Cambodian students with advantage

Two Cambodian schoolboys practice on a computer. (FILM) AFP PHOTO

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Cambodian children who have some form of pre-school education, regardless of the type, perform better than those with none, a study published yesterday states.

“Children who attended any form of pre-school made more gains on the Cambodian Developmental Assessment Test than others,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Nirmala Rao of the University of Hong Kong, adding the test assessed aspects like general knowledge, motor skills, memory and life skills.

The UNICEF-funded longitudinal study, published in the journal Child Development, was conducted over 2006 to 2007 in six provinces selected for their poverty, including Kampong Speu, Oddar Meanchey and Stung Treng.

More than 1,000 5-year-olds were tested before and after attending a year of school.

Three models of pre-schools were covered in the study – state pre-schools, community pre-schools and home-based programmes.

The last model is conducted by mothers’ groups formed in villages, facilitated by a “core” mother who has undergone a two-day training course.

The study notes that children from state pre-schools performed the best.

“State pre-schools have a learning environment containing qualified teachers, learning materials and structure, like paper, pens, toilets, running water, electricity and a roof,” said Rao.

“Hence, the study suggests that having pre-schools with qualified teachers and adequate resources will improve the quality of pre-schools.”

The research is one of the first to compare types of pre-schools in a low-income Asian country, the study notes.

UNICEF communication officer Angelique Reid said the findings informed its current 2011-2015 country programme.

The three models of preschool education had since been scaled up by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports with the support of UNICEF and Global Partnership for Education, and new models had been developed, including inclusive pre-schools for childrens with disabilities, she said.

Last year, 275,844 children aged 6 and below in Cambodia received pre-school education, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cassandra Yeap at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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