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A student reads to a class in Dong Plet primary school, Preah Vihear province. The government accepts that education infrastructure in the provinces needs investment .
A student reads to a class in Dong Plet primary school, Preah Vihear province. The government accepts that education infrastructure in the provinces needs investment. Hong Menea

An education fit for the next generation

Cambodia’s current Strategic Education Plan runs until 2018. Post Education spoke to Education Minister Dr. Hang Choum Naron, who is responsible for writing a new plan, about the agenda he will set for the Kingdom’s education system in the coming years.

Cambodia has received praise from the United Nations for the way in which it has managed to rebuild its education sector following the troubled times of the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese occupation. No one however, least of all the Kingdom’s Minister for Education, Youth, and Sport Dr. Hang Choum Naron, disagrees that much remains to be done.

Choum Naron believes that better teacher training, the introduction of information and communications technology lessons, and the exemplar of the country’s ‘new generation’ schools will make Cambodia’s schooling system fit for purpose in a globalising world where young people need to be adaptive, creative thinkers to maximise their life chances.

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Officials say New Generation Schools such as this one at Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh are part of the future of education in the kingdom. Jade Sacker

The current strategic plan for education has delivered tangible results his staff can be proud of, said Choum Naron. “Broadly, in the last four years [during which] I have introduced this reform to the education sector, we have seen that students work harder, teachers have more enthusiasm, and results are better. The quality of education has improved, but we must still work more in order to achieve better results.”

He said that in upcoming years, the ministry would focus on working towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Number four on the list relates to education, calling for “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Choum Naron said that the current system is highly adaptable and stands ready to implement new initiatives. “The strength of the current education system is that it can respond very fast to our reform program. We recently introduced a grade 12 reform, and we can already see the students work harder. The teachers provide additional lessons, and the number of ‘A’ grades [is] improv[ing] fast.”

However, he also accepts that the dilapidated physical condition of many schools needs addressing. “I think the weakness of the system is that we can see that the conditions in schools need to improve,” said the Minister.

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School buildings such as this one at Pursat require some updating. Pha Lina

Another focus of the forthcoming strategic plan will be better teacher training and more effective school administration. “For the last four years we have made some progress, especially with students who work hard and the teachers who teach better.

“However, we must continue to improve qualifications for teachers, and especially improve the management of schools. That’s why, today, we need to improve the management and administration of schools. [We need to] improve [students’] engagement with teaching and learning, improve financial management, and train more qualified teachers.”

Choum Naron said he is concerned about ensuring that Cambodia can compete economically with neighbouring countries as well as in the world at large. “My ambition is to create students who are good national citizens and also good global citizens. You can see that we have many problems. Without well-trained people, you cannot compete globally. You cannot compete economically with countries in the region. And education is the answer to that kind of competition. Education is the answer to solving the problems that we are facing in the world.

“I think that when we face terrorism, global warming, and climate change, only education can provide the solution.”

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