I am writing in response to your article, “Rebuilding the education sector” (November 18, 2009). The Cambodian education system has always been designed by, and catered to, the upper classes, usually by a group whose knowledge is inherited through wealth dictating how a system should operate. As such, Cambodia’s current education system is one that suppresses the underclass and maintains the cycle of poverty for the least fortunate, giving them little hope of a future.
Cambodian students deserve better. Cambodia should be able to adopt and manage a 21st-century education system without any excuses. A more prosperous Kingdom needs a system in which innovation, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, integrity, equality, forward-looking leadership and commitment are all prized as core values.
Teachers should be a respected group of professionals, but they are perceived as being corrupt. Tales of teachers coming to class unprepared, tired from other jobs, taking bribes, selling food, selling lessons and selling exam papers are a daily occurrence.
Such practices should be unacceptable in any society because children learn from what they see in the classroom. They will eventually copy adults and conduct their lives according to what they learned was acceptable behaviour during their school years.
Is the public school system to blame or are teachers? Should Cambodians, especially children, respect this group of people? What role model do these teachers provide for children with their corrupt behaviour and excuses?
It is an excellent idea to build new schools for every community in the Kingdom, and much thanks should go to private donors and/or governments for their support. However, is building more schools necessary when, more often than not, old ones have been left with inadequate funds and resources to prevent them from deteriorating? The absence of firm criteria and procedures for the selection of teachers is an added concern. I have heard that if one wants to be a teacher in Phnom Penh, one has to pay a bribe. Can this be true?
These practices must change. Adopt a Cambodian curriculum that maintains our cultural values and adopts a pro-active approach so that Cambodians can compete globally with the business world in the decades to come. The main issue has to be addressed: That is, teachers must be well paid, so that it stops them from breeding a culture of corruption within the system. Any new school that is built must include a long-term plan to keep the building in good shape. Procedures must be in place to tackle the administrative challenges of hiring and placing teachers, with transparency and without any discrimination. Strict procedure also needs to be in place to remove or fire officials from their positions for any conflict of interest in hiring, taking bribes, or not complying with the duties that are required.
I trust Prime Minister Hun Sen. He can make education his legacy. The current government was democratically elected by an overwhelming majority. It has a strong mandate, as indicated in the government’s Millennium Development Goals for 2015. So, for the love of all of our Kingdom’s children, give them the care they deserve: an education system with equality, equity and transparency. I would like to ask Hun Sen and the government to find a way to pay our teachers what they are worth because teachers are our children’s daily heroes.
We all want a more prosperous Cambodia, and I believe we can achieve this with the introduction of strict rules, regulations, enforcement and strategy. Then Cambodia’s next generations will have the capacity to compete with the rest of the world.
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The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.