Three years ago Venerable Sam Synann, a monk of 16 years, gave up an overseas scholarship
to open an English language school with a twist. His Buddhist Morality Education
Center incorporates Buddhist principles into its language courses to counteract what
he felt was a developing lack of "humanity and morality" in the country.
Funded with his own savings and pagoda donations, the school operates as an NGO,
with the mission of providing a quality language instruction along with Buddhist
ideology. The school now has 1,500 students.
Located in Khan Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh, classes begin and end in Buddhist prayer.
About half of the school's 50 teachers are Buddhist monks; the rest are local teachers,
volunteer university students or foreigners.
Gary Hearty, a retired American school principle who is now the volunteer assistant
director at BMEC, says in his 34 years of teaching he has never seen anything quite
like BMEC. "It has an atmosphere of difference. It has little to do with money
and a lot to do with quality," he says.
The school has several courses in English, plus a few classes in German, Chinese
and Korean as well as computers. Fees are $2.50 to $4 per month. Books are free and
bicycles often are supplied to poor students who can't afford transportation.
Vong Sokcheat, 19, enrolled a year ago after hearing about BMEC from friends. "I
enjoy learning here a lot more," he said. "It's different from other schools.
Here we learn to be a good person with good characteristics."