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Government to add new kindergartens

People attend the launch of a project in Phnom Penh on September 28, 2016, aimed at providing early childhood education to young children in 137 floating villages.
People attend the launch of a project in Phnom Penh on September 28, 2016, aimed at providing early childhood education to young children in 137 floating villages. Heng Chivoan

Government to add new kindergartens

The Ministry of Education plans to incorporate an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 community-based kindergartens – currently run by commune councils with support from NGOs – into the state public school system to ensure their sustainability, according to a new sub-decree.

The sub-decree, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 29 and approved by the Ministry of Education on January 3, will require community-based kindergartens to meet minimum standards before they are incorporated under the ministry.

The sub-decree is designed to improve the quality, efficiency and sustainability of community-based kindergartens for children aged 3 to 6 years old across the country, according to a copy of the sub-decree. Ministry spokesman Ros Salin declined to comment yesterday.

Chin Chanveasna, executive director of the NGO Education Partnership, said the ministry plans to incorporate around 600, or about 20 percent, of the existing community-based kindergartens this year, and will look to increase the number it incorporates each year going forward.

Funding fluctuations for NGOs can sometimes affect the sustainability of the community-based kindergartens they support, and commune councils may struggle with limited resources, Chanveasna said.

“Even right now, there are some commune councils that have not prioritised education,” he said.

During the 2015-16 school year, the coverage of early childhood education in Cambodia stood at 64.7 percent. However, only 11 percent of children in rural and remote areas have access to such services.

The Ministry of Education plans to reach a goal of having 100 percent enrolment of children aged 5 by 2030, Chanveasna said. It hopes to hit a similar goal for those aged 3 and 4 at a later date.

Romam Sokhon, Soeung commune chief in Ratanakkiri’s Bakeo district, said his commune had four community-based kindergartens. “Three are run by the commune and one of them is run by Plan International,” he said.

Sokhon said he has heard that after the community-based kindergartens are incorporated into the public school system, teachers’ salaries will see a bump, which he said was positive as it would help improve the quality of education.

“For a month, we spend 300,000 riel [about $75] for the salaries of teachers,” he said. “But I’ve heard that [this year], they will spend 600,000 riel.”

Chanveansa said the ministry had yet to reveal a budget for the incorporation of the 600 schools this year, and there was no clear time frame to complete the transition. He added the community-based institutions will likely need to “increase capacity” in order for the ministry to incorporate them.

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