Each year, more than a quarter of possible teaching hours are lost at the primary school level – the equivalent of 50.5 school days – due to teacher absences, missing class hours and the high number of school holidays, a report released yesterday found.
These results were gathered during the 2012-13 school year by NGO Education Partnership and more than 130 other organisations, focusing on grades 4 through 6, at 91 primary schools in urban and rural areas.
According to Ang Sopha, research coordinator of NEP, the study sought to find key deterrents to classroom learning.
“We found that sometimes, in one day, teaching might only be there for three hours, compared to the scheduled five hours,” she said.
“Students do not learn on their own, and if we decrease teaching hours by coming late, this will affect the quality of teaching.”
Sopha urged the Ministry of Education to review optional public holidays, like Chinese New Year, and consider improving the living standards of teachers, adding that deficits were worse in rural areas.
Education Minister Hang Choun Naron said yesterday that he recognised the consequences that lost hours have on the quality of Cambodia’s education system and proposed a working group to assess and address the problem.
“To effectively [solve] this issue, we also need active participation from students’ parents, local authorities and teachers,” he said.
Narom added that attendance in Cambodia’s 7,000 primary schools has increased to 98 per cent, compared with just 87 per cent in 2000.
According to the current curriculum policy, primary students are required to attend 190 full school days in the classroom totalling between 684 and 760 teaching hours.
Director of Santhormork Primary School Heng Channy said at his school, holidays impact the teaching program:
“What we are concerned about is [lost] hours since teachers are coming late because their houses are far from school,” he said.
Cheng Sophath, director of Samdech Chea Sim School in Preah Sihanouk province, felt the blame lay on the government, which she said had not increased teachers’ salaries enough.
“If [teachers] cannot survive with their wage, it affects the education system,” she explained.
“If the government could help that, our education system would be better.”