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Census results reveal rising literacy rates

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Interior minister Sar Kheng noted that literacy rates in the Kingdom improved across all demographics since the previous national census. Hean Rangsey

Census results reveal rising literacy rates

Literacy among people aged 15 and up in the Kingdom has risen over the past 11 years due to reforms in the education system and prioritising human resource development, according to the results of the recently published national census.

At the ceremony to present the final results of the General Population Census on January 26, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng noted that the adult literacy rate in Cambodia had increased from 77.6 per cent to 87.7 per cent since the last census in 2008.

Sar Kheng described the literacy rate as an important indicator of educational outcomes important for national development.

“Education is important for individuals and a resource for national development. It is a birthright for every person and contributes to poverty reduction and the elimination of inequality,” he said.

The literacy rate among Cambodians aged seven and up also increased from 78.4 per cent in 2008 to 88.5 per cent in 2019. There remain, however, large gaps between male and female literacy rates as well as urban versus rural.

“Inequality between men and women in terms of literacy is a major issue for the ministry of education and the government to consider urgently,” Sar Kheng said.

“Adult literacy rates have changed significantly in urban areas, reaching over 93 per cent, compared with rural rates at around 84 per cent,” he added.

According to the census report’s survey of education levels, 22 per cent of the population aged 20-24 did not complete primary school while nearly 32 per cent finished only primary school. For another 33 per cent, lower secondary school was the highest level of schooling completed.

In the same age group, nine per cent finished technical or vocational secondary programmes as their highest level attained, and three per cent achieved undergraduate or postgraduate degrees.

The report defines literacy as the ability to write and read with comprehension ordinary phrases in any particular language. Individuals unable to do so are deemed illiterate.

The National Committee for the General Population Census announced the official results after completing census surveys on March 3, 2019. The census found that Cambodia’s population increased 16 per cent to 15.5 million from 13.4 million people in 2008.

Daniel Alemu, acting representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Cambodia, said at the ceremony that the census data on the size and nature of the population would support the national ecosystem database, the measurement of sustainable national development indicators and the sampling framework for national and sub-national surveys.

“Census data provides an important source of information for policymakers to respond more effectively to vulnerable and indistinguishable groups,” Alemu said.

Ministry of Education spokesman Ros Soveacha said the ministry has made efforts to develop a number of educational initiatives to contribute to the eradication of illiteracy. These include programmes for school re-enrolment, professional literacy, post-literacy, diploma equivalency, income-generation and life improvement.

“The non-formal education programmes are intended for people who have not had opportunities or access to general education, including the poor and vulnerable, especially women and children, and adolescents who work rather than attend school,” he said.

Soveacha said the initiatives are in accordance with Article 65 of Cambodia’s Constitution which declares that the state must protect and promote the right of citizens to receive quality education at all levels and must take all necessary measures to make education accessible to everyone.

Article 66 subsequently provides that “the state shall establish a complete and unified education system throughout the country so that all citizens will be equally fortunate to pursue their lives”.

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