Deputy Prime Minister Sok An requested yesterday that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports collaborate with the Ministry of Labour to create a vocational “bridge” program to enable students without high school degrees to have access to trade-based, university-level coursework.
“This point is vital, because our goal is not only to help the grade nine students, but also [those] below that level through professional training,” said An at the opening ceremony of an annual Education Ministry conference. “The two ministries should work together to [improve] bridging courses,” he said.
A UNESCO study this year revealed that a quarter of Cambodian children below the age of 14 will not complete primary school, with 10 per cent of them joining the labour force (the second-highest rate in Southeast Asia). According to a 2012 government report, less than half of Cambodia’s employed youth have graduated from secondary school.
“In Cambodia, we have the problem of children who drop out of school because they are poor [and need to work],” said Hang Chuon Naron, the minister of education. “This [program] would encourage them to come back to school.”
The “bridging course” will focus on a targeted program, Chuon Naron explained, which would condense a three-year curriculum into a single year.
Because many students enter the work force instead of attending high school, the bridging course would allow them to focus on subjects essential to vocational training before they move onto higher learning in specific trades, he said.
Chuon Naron added that he will discuss how the ministry will strengthen the existing education system for all students at an awards ceremony later this week.
However, Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said he thought it was unwise to allow students to attend university, even to study vocational-based courses, without a proper high school level background.
“They will not [be able] to learn, because they have no foundation,” he said.