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Children helping children: the ANGKOR Project

Western Australian volunteers focus on teaching Cambodian children vital life skills

Since 2006, administrators, teachers and support staff from many schools in Western Australia have been providing educational resources and teaching support to Cambodian sister schools in Kampong Speu province, which is located 50 kilometres south of Phnom Penh.

The ANGKOR Project, managed by volunteer educators from Western Australia, is supported by the director-general of the Department of Education, Sharyn O’Neill, the Cambodian Ministry of Education and the regional director of Kampong Speu province, Sam Samenta.

The project was established to enhance the learning environments of local schools and develop the capacity of Cambodian teachers. It also enables Western Australian school students to develop a greater understanding of Asia, Cambodia, global poverty and global issues.

Kids learn to work together in the ANGKOR Project.
Kids learn to work together in the ANGKOR Project. PHOTO SUPLLIED

During the past seven years, principals, teachers and other Department of Education staff have funded their own trips to Cambodia to support sister schools in Kampong Speu.

In Western Australia, children have fund-raised in local primary and secondary schools to purchase teaching and learning resources, water fountains, toilets, electrical services and to build classrooms to enable Cambodian children to receive a better education.

The slogan of the project, “Children Helping Children”, highlights the importance of children being able to make a difference in other children’s lives. Schools have embraced fund-raising ventures to ensure every cent is spent to improve the education and well-being of children and their teachers in Cambodia. All funds are directly sent to sister schools with sponsorship by ANZ Bank.

Teachers not only provide resources and infrastructure to their sister schools but spend time in Cambodian classrooms modelling effective teaching and learning methods and promoting collaborative strategies.

Other initiatives of the ANGKOR Project include annual leadership conferences for Cambodian sister school head teachers and study tours for Western Australian teachers. ANGKOR Project committee members and education officers from Kampong Speu Regional Education Office work hard to ensure the project is successful.

On January 13, 2014 three teachers from Perth – Natalie Tarr, Mandy Rubinich and Megan Ross – hosted a conference with 46 Cambodian teachers from Kampong Speu primary and secondary schools.

The focus of the day was improving literacy through the teaching of effective reading strategies. A Khmer-speaking interpreter translated for the presenters and teachers involved in the conference.

A Western Australian volunteer in the classroom.
A Western Australian volunteer in the classroom. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Teachers from Kampong Speu commented that conference was excellent and enjoyable. The buzz in the room throughout the day showed teachers were engaged and willing to try out new strategies to motivate their students and provide more collaborative learning in their classrooms.

Samenta, regional director of Kampong Speu, said: “The ANGKOR Project is helping Cambodian teachers improve their teaching through seeing how Australian children are learning and being taught.”

One of the teachers in attendance commented: “With over 60 children in some of our classrooms, it is important that we know how to cater for them all.”

Natalie Tarr, associate principal at Highgate Primary School, emphasised the importance of understanding and valuing the teaching context of Cambodian schools.

“It is important that all the strategies can be transferred into a Cambodian classroom,” she said. “With few computers and no photocopiers, activities need to be hands-on, engaging and provide opportunities for all children to meaningfully participate.”

Megan Ross, a teacher from Highgate Primary School, modelled reading activities on her visit earlier this month to Amphet Phnom School. She also introduced French cricket and effective maths activities using dice. Megan also provided stationery and resources to the teachers at the school from funds raised through raffles and silent auctions.

This year, schools from Western Australia will continue to undertake fund-raising activities in order to improve the education and lives of children in Cambodian schools.

For further information on the ANGKOR Project visit the Department of Education Western Australia website. A journal of the visit from 2013 is available at natperth.blogspot.com.

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