The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, along with UNESCO and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), began a work-based literacy course at the Elite Factory in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone in Svay Rieng province on June 11.

The course will provide lifelong learning opportunities for workers at the garment factory, marking the first time that the programme has been expanded into the province, located on the border with Vietnam along the southern economic corridor of the greater Mekong sub-region.

In Cambodia, the garment sector is one of the main engines of economic growth, providing formal employment to 650,000 workers. 85 per cent of garment workers are women largely coming from rural and remote areas, UNESCO said.

Illiteracy and low levels of literacy remain challenges, as many of the female garment workers have dropped out of school with a low level of basic education, UNESCO said in a press release The Post obtained on June 13.

To address this, the education ministry and UNESCO launched the Factory Literacy Programme (FLP) to equip workers in the garment industry, especially women, with basic functional literacy and skills development to improve the overall competitiveness and sustainability of the industry in Cambodia.

Nhem Phinareth, the ministry’s chief of literacy at the department of non-formal education, said at the event that the ministry is committed to supporting opportunities for workers to upskill through FLP and welcomes the partnership with the private sector and the Kingdom’s development partners.

“Through FLP, factory workers, including women and girls, are equipped with skills and knowledge such as financial and legal literacy and knowledge about reproductive health, nutrition, workers’ rights, communications and productivity while they improve their reading and writing, critical thinking, daily work communication and performance,” said the press release.

The classes are conducted at the factories where they work to offer flexibility to the workers in order to access reskilling and upskilling opportunities.

Upon completion of the eight-month programme, learners receive a certificate equivalent to a Cambodian primary education, which they can use to pursue further education at formal or non-formal education institutions.

More than 2,500 workers have benefitted from FLP since its launch, according to UNESCO.

A joint UNESCO-UNEVOC and National Centre for Vocational Education study found that investments in workplace literacy result in improvements in worker confidence and communication.

“Workers who are trained in basic literacy and numeracy skills make fewer errors and require less supervision at work, leading to cost savings and better performance for businesses.

“Recognizing the importance of FLP for both employers and workers, especially women, GMAC, through the Cambodian Garment Training Institute (CGTI) has strongly supported FLP as a strategic partner since 2021,” it noted.

The successful partnership between the education ministry, UNESCO and GMAC has supported the scaling up of FLP across Cambodia, through the network provided by GMAC to promote and encourage factories to join the programme, UNESCO said.

Andrew Tey, Centre Director of CGTI, said it is important for factories to provide opportunities for Cambodian workers to develop individually and professionally.

“Literacy and numeracy are fundamental skills for improving workers’ productivity and livelihoods. Higher worker productivity then leads to improved factory productivity and efficiency,” he said.

FLP is part of the second phase of the decent employment for youth in Cambodia joint UN programme supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and UNESCO, in synergy with UNESCO’s capacity development for education programme.