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French main casualty as high schools face teacher shortfalls

French main casualty as high schools face teacher shortfalls

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French teachers brought out of retirement to address shortfalls in the number graduating from city's teacher training academies

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

Students learning English in an English school in Phnom Penh's Bak Tuk district.

EDUCATION officials have expressed concerns about the lack of French-language teachers in the Kingdom's public high schools, which they say could lead to a decline in the language's popularity among students at a time when English-language use is becoming more widespread.

"Students in French classes also take English, which they find is more important for their future careers," said Sok Sovanna, director of Bak Tuk high school in Phnom Penh, who said 164 seventh to 12th grade French classes had been closed at the school since 2001.

"The school does not intend to close French classes and we still can teach French by asking retired teachers to help us, but students don't really like French."

Sok Sovanna added that the lack of French teachers trained by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport  had also prompted the school to shut down its French classes and that the lack of English teachers was also an obstacle for the school, which has been forced to cut English classes from four hours to

two or three hours per week.

"Only 10 English teachers are provided to give lectures to the 8,000 students at our school," he said. "We need more teachers."

Preah Sihanoukville High School in Sihanoukville is also facing similar shortages, with high school deputy director Khov Vuthy saying that retired French teachers were coming in to help pick up the slack.

"We have opened one class for each grade, but French is not as popular to study as English," he said. He added that French was still important for students who were keen to pursue tertiary studies in medicine or law.

He said also that those who study French have more opportunities to be outstanding students than those who studied in English.

"We also teach biology, maths and physics in French, and the students are much more knowledgeable and qualified," he said.

Chum Cheng, bureau chief of training and pedagogy at the Education Ministry, said the number of French students who trained to become high school French teachers was limited each year.

"Only 50 to 60 French teachers have graduated each year, which the ministry has to provide to all the country's provinces," he said, adding that English teachers - 200 of whom graduate per year - could be trained at centres in five provinces, while French students had to travel to Phnom Penh.

"We can provide only two or three French teachers to each province," he said. "We cannot fulfill the requirements of every school."

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