Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron yesterday said the ministry was seeking to bring more accountability and transparency to the education sector, though stakeholders noted much remained to be done – with one pointing out the apparent lack of transparency on display when Chuon Naron declined to speak to the press.
“The education sector must be accountable to provide quality education,” Chuon Naron said, adding that education officials and stakeholders “need to solve the problem as a package”.
His comments were made during the launch of Unesco’s global education accountability report, which notes, among other things, that Cambodia does not recognise the time teachers spend on supplemental responsibilities, and limits statutory working time to hours spent in the classroom.
Chuon Naron said the ministry has made strides – including raising teachers’ salaries, securing budget increases and massively overhauling the national grade 12 exams in 2014 – adding that new reforms would not just take place in a government office, but at the level of individual schools.
“Schools can be accountable if they have enough resources and the principal is well trained,” he said, pointing to the achievement of the so-called New Generation Schools, which are similar to charter schools and are part of a ministry reform.
To make that happen, the ministry has introduced school inspections and teacher accountability is also part of its “in-depth reform”, Chuon Naron said.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, applauded the grade 12 test reforms, but also agreed that more needs to take place.
“There is a need for more comprehensive and structural reforms to be undertaken including strengthening of teachers’ disciplines and morals, preventing [the] practice of teachers demanding bribery [or] payment from students at primary and secondary schools,” he said.
Furthermore, he said, the ministry should “show best examples on their accountability and transparency at all levels regarding teacher recruitments and financial management”.
Anne Lemaistre, Unesco representative in Cambodia, said the ministry had made “tremendous progress” with financial reforms, which give more transparency toward specific projects, but nonetheless called out the ministry for not taking questions from the press during the event.
“It’s very important to answer in full transparency to the media,” she said.