An international conference last week set out to unlock Cambodia’s human capital potential by increasing the number of schools, improving teacher training and raising education standards
We may have achieved considerable success with some aspects of quality education, but WE HAVE not attained 100 Percent perfection.
Education specialists from more than 30 countries gathered at the International Topic Network Conference on Quality Education in Phnom Penh last week.
Organised by the Cambodian chapter of Save the Children Norway, the conference aimed to review Cambodia’s achievements in education since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.
It specifically set out to develop an understanding of the importance of quality education among participants, and how quality education could be achieved through practical and theoretical means, said Markus Aksland, country director of Save the Children Norway in Cambodia.
“We have gathered here to discuss ways to boost our achievements in education. How we ensure that children not only get access to school, but that they actually learn once they are there,” he said.
The Ministry of Education was making a concerted effort to build more schools in rural areas, he said. However, a major quality gap existed between schools in the capital and those in the most remote areas, such as Ratanakkiri province.
“I think the quality of education in some parts of Cambodia is good, but some parts outside of the capital still have problems,” Aksland said.
The conference was also used as a vehicle to present recommendations from Save the Children Norway’s Quality Education Project to educators and government officials in Cambodia and around the world.
With more than 100 delegates from 34 countries in attendance, Aksland said it was a “unique opportunity to make a difference”.
Save the Children Norway has pledged to donate US$6 million every year to Cambodia between 2006 and 2010.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has developed an action plan to ensure all Cambodian children have access to quality education at all levels regardless of their gender or class by 2015.
Education Minister Im Sethy said the Education Strategic Plan (ESP) and Education Sector Support Programme (ESSP) were timely and appropriate measures to support the government’s policy on talent and skills development.
The ministry has emphasised the development of intellectual capital and human resources as critical to the Kingdom’s development, he said.
They were also key indicators for “ensuring Cambodia’s competitiveness in reconstructing the nation’s economy and integrating itself into the region and the world”, Im Sethy said.
“We are hopeful of young students coming to schools when they reach the age eligible for entering school.”
He acknowledged that the country still had a long way to go, but said he was encouraged by the number of donor and development partners coming forward to lend a hand.
“We may have achieved considerable success with some aspects of quality education, but we have not attained 100 percent perfection,” he said.
“We are encouraged by the fact that many countries are coming to help us find ways to improve the quality of education because we lost nearly everything during the Khmer Rouge regime.”
He said that less than 20 percent of the Kingdom’s teachers survived Pol Pot’s bloody reign.
The Ministry of Education seeks to recruit an additional 500 teachers per year because the number of schools has increased rapidly.
There are now nearly 8,000 school buildings across the country, but even that is not enough to meet the demand of new and existing students.
The ministry also plans to build some 800 to 900 additional school buildings in remote rural areas, Im Sethy said.
The government is also formulating strategies and initiatives to boost the quality of education.
One method of sustaining quality education was by widening knowledge of the teachers, so they are able to pass on their knowledge to students.
“Along with our own efforts, I want to add that some of the success we have achieved is because we have good support from donor agencies such as Save the Children Norway,” Im Sethy said.