Cambodia’s education system is gearing up to teach children life skills in an effort to combat discrimination. Other news dominating the education space during the last three months included the release of a report which showed the Kingdom’s financial literacy was below par, while the government assured next month’s grade 12 high school exams would largely follow the same process as the past few years.
Demand for Chinese speakers increases
Chinese language skills are in growing demand from companies looking to hire in Cambodia’s job market as China’s influence in the Kingdom is increasingly felt both in the business and tourism sectors, according to online job portal Everjobs.
Cambodia country manager for Everjobs Niels van Klooster said that companies are increasingly looking to recruit Chinese-speaking candidates, though language skill levels in the Kingdom remain low.
“We noticed there are many companies coming from China to the Kingdom, so what we get asked a lot is to look for job seekers that can speak Chinese,” he told reporters. “I think if you can recommend one thing to the students, it would be to pick up languages.”
Push for worker literacy
More than 100 workers in six garment factories in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have achieved literacy under a pilot programme that will expand to another 18 factories across the country.
The pilot supported by Unesco, the literacy promoting non-governmental organization Sipar and the Ministry of Education began in February 2016 and ended in April 2017 with “successful” results.
Sin Sothea, Sipar’s library programme manager, said the literacy rate among the country’s 700,000 garment workers is estimated to be around 50 percent.
“We want to continue to increase it,” he said. “We believe that there are links between literacy and the rate of productivity.”
A total of 120 workers learned basic Khmer writing and reading skills under the pilot programme, said Unesco Cambodia Representative Anne Lemaistre.
‘Life Skills’ course in the works
A new school course would teach children from grades 5 to 12 for the first time about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, sex and gender-based violence, as part of a proposed Ministry of Education curriculum.
The new course, called “Life Skills”, would be taught from grade 1 to 12, with coursework on LGBT issues beginning in grade 5.
Srun Srorn, a prominent LGBT activist who had been involved in drafting the text, said the curriculum was an important step towards combating discrimination against the LGBT community in Cambodia, as the material would be taught nationwide and would cover a broad range of issues.
The Ministry of Education’s School Health Department, headed by director Dr Chhay Kim Sitheavy, was responsible for drafting the curriculum in conjunction with NGOs and Unesco.
Sitheavy said that the ministry would hold an internal meeting to discuss the proposed curriculum. “After that, we need to conduct pilot testing,” she said. They would then hold more workshops with stakeholders and begin drafting a textbook for the 2018-19 academic year.
Proposal to teach Hun Sen’s life story in schools seen as hagiography by some
Students at schools in Cambodia will learn about the life, achievements and leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen under a proposal by the Defence Ministry to change the nation’s curriculum and introduce the ruling party’s fiercely contested historical narrative into textbooks.
Defence Ministry Director General of Policy and Foreign Affairs Nem Sowath said there was a need to fill a “gap in history”.
Observers, however, were quick to note the prime minister’s personal story is already widely promoted by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, not to mention by the premier himself, with one analyst calling the proposal simple “politics”.
Sowath said the ministry wanted students to have “the opportunity” to learn about “where the premier comes from”, his “principles of leadership” and “all the things we have built”.
“I think we need to prepare all this knowledge, place it in public and build it into the history curriculum,” he said. “We learn about other kings in the past and, though this regime’s king comes from kings, Samdech [Hun Sen] comes from real people.”
Financial literacy far below par, study finds
Financial literacy in Cambodia continues to chalk up low rankings, although the level of understanding of financial products available is largely in line with expectations based on the Kingdom’s current GDP, according to a new study released by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) on July 11.
The ADBI had conducted surveys in Cambodia and Vietnam to measure financial literacy across various segments of the population, differentiating the results by age group, income level and education.
Cambodia received a total score of 11.5 out of a possible 21according to the report, much lower than the average from surveys conducted in 30 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries.
The report also shows that education plays an important role in financial literacy, and in Cambodia, respondents with a tertiary education scored higher than respondents who only completed secondary or primary education.
Ministry to use ‘experts’ to review exam grading
Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron announced that the Grade 12 high school exams taking place in August will largely follow the same process as the past few years, though a spokesman noted that new subject “experts” will be introduced to help spot grading errors.
“So far, the ministry has set out measures to strengthen both the examining and correcting processes,” Chuon Naron said at a press conference at his ministry ahead of the high-stakes exams on August 21 and 22.
Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said by telephone that “experts” in each subject area would be introduced to review the tests after they have been graded by a committee in charge of that area. The exam includes seven subjects such as math, biology and history.
Monitors from the Anti-Corruption Unit would continue to observe students taking the exam at least for five to 10 years, he added.
Education sector a strong contributor to Cambodian job market
The education sector continues to be a strong contributor to the Cambodian job market, according to online job portal Everjobs which processed over 1,600 applications to teaching positions through its platform between April to June this year.
The findings, revealing the latest top hiring industries in the Kingdom based on more than 5,400 job opportunities published online and about 25,000 applications submitted through the platform during the second quarter (Q2) of 2017, were published in a career report by Everjobs on July 18.
The word “teacher” was reported to be one of the most popular search terms by job seekers in Q2.
“While industries like education and banking will maintain their position among the top generating sectors in the long run due to Cambodia’s socio-economic development, the current trends point to a near future increasingly dominated by more technical job opportunities like IT development and engineering,” business development manager at Everjobs Cambodia Divotsna said.