Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and relevant institutions to review education policy and teaching standards, as well as the mechanisms needed to implement them.
He said quality education, inclusive for all, must be ensured in line with the goal of sustainable development.
Hun Sen, with the new school year to begin on Friday, reiterated the importance of education in shaping the Kingdom’s future and called on relevant bodies to ensure quality, inclusive learning for all Cambodians.
Ahead of the start of the 2019-20 academic year, Hun Sen released a video outlining eight recommendations.
He said the Ministry of Education must ensure all schools had the necessary funding and staff numbers, with the capacity of school principals and teachers strengthened, especially through improved inspections and continuous review.
He appealed to all educational institutions and Buddhist pagodas to encourage children to attend school, while taking measures to tackle issues such as rising temperatures, and increasing floods and storms.
Hun Sen said the duration of schooling must be completed as set by the Ministry of Education, while schools must be made child-friendly and transformed into flagship “New Generation Schools” to improve human capital, especially in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Teachers have to be good role models, as guardians, guides, researchers, counsellors and leaders in innovation through continuously improving their knowledge in teaching, information and communication technology [ICT], and foreign languages. They will then be able to transfer this knowledge to the students to develop them into global citizens and inheritors of the future,” the prime minister said.
He told young people to study hard, respect the traffic laws and stay away from drugs.
“All students should remember that if you love yourselves and your parents, and want a bright future, you must stay away from drugs and also tell your friends about the dangers of drugs. You must abstain from all sins,” Hun Sen said.
He called on all carers of children to register them for the new academic year and follow their progress. They should also create a good family environment and advise children on health and morality.
Maximising talent, with the younger generation the foundations of the country, would equip students with the life skills and morals needed to build a bright future for Cambodia, the prime minister said.
Hun Sen called on authorities at all levels to put greater effort into improving schools, infrastructure and other support networks. Assistance should be given to students with disabilities, as well as to young people who had dropped out of school or had not attended.
He said children should spend at least nine years at school.
He appealed to development partners and NGOs to increase cooperation and partnership to help poor students or those who live in area hard to access.
Hok Sothik, the director of education organisation SIPAR, said he appreciated the reforms in educational system since Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron took charge in 2013, especially those regarding exams. He said Chuon Naron had created trust in the system among parents and the greater public.
“The system makes students study hard because they know they will fail if they don’t. Now even the children of the rich do not believe that they can use bribes to pass an exam. This means they can pass only by demonstrating what they have learned,” Sothik said.
He said, however, that reforms in education took a long time, especially regarding training to improve the quality of teaching. Over the next 10 years, he said, training for primary school teachers should be extended to four years, up from the current two.
Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association president Ouk Chhayavy said on Wednesday that to improve the current standards in education, teachers should not feel pressurised. She said some teachers were not happy with the New Generation School model because they saw it as “creating another school within a school”, which was a form of discrimination.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that schooling from Grade 1 to Grade 9 is free of charge. But that is not the reality. There are also ‘target schools’, which have components from the Buddhist pagoda committee, monks and all levels of the local authorities,” Chhayavy said.
She added that there should be no discrimination in schools, even politically.
“We don’t want to see any political discrimination in schools. No matter what political tendency teachers have, what is important is transferring knowledge to students,” she said.