Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Education reforms ‘daunting’




Education reforms ‘daunting’

An education official hands tests to students at Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh during the 2015 national high school exams in August.
An education official hands tests to students at Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh during the 2015 national high school exams in August. Hong Menea

Education reforms ‘daunting’

Cambodia’s political culture is continuing to threaten the quality of primary education, and ambitious reforms are likely to fall flat unless changes are made at the ground level, according to a new report.

The report was published by the Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) research centre this week, based on research and data collected last year.

“Ambitious, wide-ranging, top-down reform programmes . . . are likely to disappoint,” the report read. “Unless better incentives are provided, then, we would expect the local-level implementation of reforms to be patchy,” unless they had exceptional school directors or NGO support.

While the report said it did not want “to pour cold water on the enthusiasm for reform”, it suggested policy changes – like higher salaries and weeding out corrupt or incompetent staff – but acknowledged these recommendations “go against the grain of Cambodia’s current political settlement”.

Report co-author Tim Kelsall said a poor election result for the ruling Cambodia People’s Party prompted the appointment of a “serious reformer” in Education Minister Chuon Naron amid a culture where loyalty had long been valued over competence.

“However, to improve quality the minister and his supporters will have to win hundreds or thousands of mini-political struggles against all the people in the system who are content with the status quo,” he said.

Tek Muy Tieng, a research assistant at the Cambodian Development Research Institute who collected data for the report, said quality could vary drastically even when schools were a mere 2 kilometres apart.

“Because of the leadership from one school, it was able to get funds; [at] the other, the director was not up to date, and just did not care about the school – he focused on his business and moonlighting,” she said.

Education Ministry spokesperson Ros Salin defended the minister’s policy reforms over the past two years – including lifting teacher salaries with the view of a base salary of $250 by 2018. He said the “deep reform” was founded on grassroots research, and credited the changes with raising the high school pass rate from a total of 40 per cent in 2014 – when a make-up round of testing was hastily approved after new anti-cheating measures saw pass rates plummet – to 55 per cent in 2015.

Chin Chanveasna, executive director of the NGO Education Partnership, which liaises between civil society groups and the government, said that he was optimistic recently planted seeds of reform would yield fruit, but this could take up to a decade.

He said government funding for schools was “not enough”, and that he doubted “informal fee” collection could be completely stamped out without a strong stance by school administrations.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara