The cautious, staggered reopening of schools has been possible due to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) implementing a slew of measure following the outbreak of Covid-19 to provide a safe environment for all students, academic staff and parents.
In a timely manner, the ministry introduced four key measures to curb the spread of the virus – both in public and private institutions – and students began returning last month as schools reopen in three stages.
The health and safety measures include following the instructions and technical measures of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) in maintaining the highest levels of sanitation.
To protect health and prevent the spread of Covid-19 at educational institutions, these were strictly adhered to.
To promote safe social distancing measures, the ministry put in place the early first semester vacation for public and private general education institutions, with a temporary break for higher education institutions and teacher training centres, while academic staff were allowed to work from home.
The fourth key measure – the development of electronic and distance learning platforms – was carried out in three phases.
The implementation of the immediate phase was accomplished by early April. This included forming a special commission for developing videos for the teaching of core subjects and examination-year grades to be broadcast on existing digital platforms.
The medium-term phase includes improving the ministry’s existing digital platforms, while the long-term includes improving and developing digital platforms to provide appropriate and holistic education services electronically.
In supporting all students at the kindergarten, primary, secondary and upper-secondary levels during the early first semester vacation period, the ministry prepared several measures, including creating the “Learning Through Electronic Systems” curriculum, which was used by many students.
Based on collaborations with and contributions from the private sector and a range of experts, substantial study is available to students via e-learning systems.
The major immediate goals in the first phase included focusing on students at Grades 9 and 12.
With participation from professors and teachers from the Royal University of Phnom Penh and the Bak Touk, Boeung Trabek and Preah Sisowath high schools, MoEYS produced videos for Grades 9 and 12 in six core subjects – Khmer Language, Mathematics, History, Chemistry, Physics and Biology.
Three digital platforms were also established. The www.youtube.com/moeys channel stores all videos of teaching for students for self-study at their own pace, while www.facebook.com/moeys.gov.kh broadcasts daily in the morning for Grade 9 students and in the afternoon for those in Grade 12.
Additionally, on www.elearning.moeys.gov.kh students are able to access learning materials through a selection of free compulsory courses or lessons without the need for registration.
Within three weeks, the number of users reached 520,000 on Facebook and 263,000 on Youtube, while 1,000 people visited the official MoEYS website.
Lessons for all levels
The second phase saw the recording of lessons for students at all levels.
MoEYS produced special videos for the teaching of kindergarten pupils in Psychomotricity, Science, Social Studies, Pre-Maths and Khmer Language.
From Grades 1 to 3, the videos were produced with the support of the “I Learn, I Know” programme.
For primary education, MoEYS put into practice the “Children Learn, Children Know” programme consisting of learning materials for Reading and Mathematics at the beginning level of primary education.
These included manuals for teachers, and teaching and learning materials for Khmer Language and Mathematics for students at Grades 1 and 2.
These will supplement the existing main Reading and Writing course books for Khmer Language.
In secondary and upper-secondary education, MoEYS produced teaching videos for Grades 7 to 12 and encouraged schools to allow the borrowing of the main course books for additional self-study.
To facilitate the non-formal education system, the Basic Education Equivalent Program (BEEP) was put in place to broaden basic education services to young people and to address the high drop-out rate in upper-secondary education.
An initiative between MoEYS, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training and Unesco, this programme will assist youth in graduating via self-study and dual systems offering learning flexibility.
The third phase included supporting students in rural areas.
Under a commitment to assure equitable education services, special attention is given to ensure students in rural areas are able to obtain the same quality of education as their urban counterparts.
To this end, MoEYS signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Information for the production and broadcasting of distance learning programmes and e-learning systems.
Based on the MoU, the ministry offers learning materials for all subjects and grades to the Ministry of Information for broadcasting via the new “TVK2” educational satellite TV channel.
Cooperation with private sector
MoEYS also cooperated with the private sector to substantialise e-learning systems.
AZE Innovation Tech Co Ltd provided the E-School Cambodia learning system free of charge for a whole year to students across the Kingdom, while technological experts produced learning materials such as videos, games and puzzles for Grades 1 to 3.
Postcar created a mobile phone app, while WikiSchool created a digital platform for accessing teaching videos produced by the ministry.
In addition, several companies and technological experts requested direct collaboration with MoEYS, including Khmer Academy, Edemy, Phum School, Test App, ICT Angkor, ReanTamChet, Tesdopi and iKnow iKnow.
The ministry is also collaborating with the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to further develop e-learning systems for both the short and long term.
A $10 million loan from the World Bank’s Higher Education Improvement Project (HEIP) is being looked into to support e-learning.
MoEYS is preparing a proposal for a grant from the GPE for the further supporting of schools and students – especially those in rural areas – and for the reopening of educational institutions as the Covid-19 situation gradually improves.
All these measures ensure that MoEYS continues to provide the highest standards of education and safety to all the Kingdom’s students.