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A teacher instructs an English class at a Phnom Penh high school
A teacher instructs an English class at a Phnom Penh high school earlier this year. Heng Chivoan

Teacher quality in spotlight

After a year of overhauling the nation’s notoriously corruption-riddled grade 12 exam, the Ministry of Education said yesterday that 2015 will be the year of reforming teaching quality.

“The government’s strategic plan from 2015 to 2030 will focus on the capacity of the teachers . . . Teachers are the key to raising the quality of education in Cambodia,” said Nath Bunroeun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, during an education workshop in the capital.

In order to amend a long-standing teacher shortage that has left the nation with one of the worst student-teacher ratios outside of Africa, the Education Ministry will now make it easier for the top-scoring graduates of the national exam to become a teacher.

“From next year, those who get A, B or C [on the exam], if they want to become a teacher, they can become so automatically, no need to take any exams,” Bunroeun said.

This year’s strict no cheating standards saw just 1 per cent of students receiving the top three marks during either of the two exam rounds this year.

Education experts warned, however, that the incentive for high-scoring teacher recruits should only be a temporary measure.

“This is a good encouragement for students to try to study hard, but I think it should be limited to a period of time like two or three years only. Then there should be a [teachers’] exam, so that we can have more quality human resources,” said San Chey, a coordinator for social accountability group ANSA-EAP.

But teachers’ low wages, which force up to two-thirds to take on a second job, may prove the bigger barrier to much-needed bolstering of the education corps, others warned.

“Teachers’ salary should be increased so that they can afford their living expenses and spend more time on teaching,” said Kem Ley, a longtime analyst who recently announced plans to launch a series of political parties.

The government announced earlier this year that a series of teacher wages teachers would see earnings increase up to $200, but instructors have criticised the announced raises as still amounting to too little.



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