Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ADB approves $27 million secondary education grant

ADB approves $27 million secondary education grant

ADB approves $27 million secondary education grant

About 41 percent of primary schools, 36 percent of lower secondary

schools and 7.5 percent of upper secondary schools have no latrines.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $27.1 million, six-year program to improve

the quality of secondary education in Cambodia through teacher training and improving

school facilities.

Mar Sophea, social sector officer at ADB, said that on November 27 the ADB had approved

the program to run from 2008 to 2014. The total program cost is $33.38 million, and

the government will cover the balance.

"The government has made enhancing the quality of education a high priority

to make the education system more efficient," Sukhdeep Brar, principal education

specialist of ADB's Southeast Asia department, said in a statement. "It recognizes

that investment in secondary education is needed to meet the growing demand for a

well-educated and skilled work force."

Sophea said the project will help to upgrade the qualifications of 14,400 teachers

by providing short training courses. The project will also provide 350,000 upper

secondary students with new textbooks and 7,000 upper secondary teachers with teacher's

guides. About 4,000 upper secondary students from remote and disadvantaged areas

will receive scholarships of which 60 percent will be for female students.

"It is timely that we should look at the quality issue," Sophea said. "The

completion of primary school to lower secondary school and to upper secondary school

has shown remarkable increases, but the drop outs remain a concern."

Last year, ADB provided a $25 million soft loan to the Ministry of Education, Youth

and Sports (MoEYS) to build 400 lower secondary schools at the commune level and

the World Bank granted $28 million to build about 300 schools. ADB's Sophea said

more than 200 secondary schools have already been built and the project is expected

to be completed by year 2009.

Rong Chhun, president of Cambodia Independent Teacher's Association, said he welcomed

the teacher training courses and urged ADB to monitor the project directly.

He said that even qualified teachers need to upgrade their skills due to the new

information technology.

He also said there are many other problems with education that go beyond teaching

skills. He said schools in rural areas are short of rooms and teachers. Some classes

have more than 100 students. He said the number of new teachers and classrooms has

not kept up with the increasing number of students.

The government is set to recruit roughly 5,000 new teachers per year to fill the

demand. About 1,400 teachers a year leave teaching due to maternal leave, illness,

death or other reasons including lack of motivation.

Teacher salaries are set to increase 15 percent annually, but the increases are hardly

enough. At present the primary school teachers are paid about 140,000 riel ($35)

a month, lower secondary teachers get 200,000 riel ($50), and upper secondary teachers

240,000 ($60).

Cambodia has about 8,000 schools with 3.43 million students and 76,350 teachers nationwide.

That includes 1,238 pre-schools, 6,063 primary schools, 486 lower secondary schools

and 212 upper secondary schools.

But the lack of fresh water and toilets are a significant problem in the schools.

About 52 percent of primary schools, 53 percent of lower secondary schools and 21

percent of upper secondary schools lack water.

About 41 percent of primary schools, 36 percent of lower secondary schools and 7.5

percent of upper secondary schools have no latrines.

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