UNESCO is set to launch its online Basic Education Equivalent Programme (BEEP) in 14 provinces to provide education to out-of-school youths.

BEEP – a joint initiative between UNESCO, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, and the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training – aims to address the high rates of dropout in secondary schools in Cambodia, according their October 16 press release.

BEEP is part of the Decent Employment for Youth in Cambodia programme phase II, mainly funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Upon completion of the programme, learners receive a certificate that is equivalent to completing grade 9 and accredited by the two ministries.

The new expansion will increase the total number of BEEP learning centres to 26 in the 14 provinces, ensuring that more out-of-school youths and marginalised populations in Cambodia have access to basic education equivalency opportunities for further skills training that will support them in gaining decent and productive employment.

Leav Kimlay, education programme officer for UNESCO, said BEEP is very useful for those who drop out of school – especially grades 7, 8 and 9 – allowing them to study online without affecting their working hours.

“Upon completion of the three-month programme, they will get a certificate equivalent to grade 9, which gives those who drop out of school the ability to continue their vocational training under the labour ministry or at the education ministry’s high school,” he said. “Therefore, our programme is very important as a bridge for youths who drop out of school to have the opportunity to pursue their education and skill training”.

The programme has helped students since 2019 in a more limited capacity, with around 1,500 learners who registered to study and around 500 students who had successfully finished.

“We created this programme to be flexible because we see that for youths who drop out of school, life is very difficult. They drop out of school and have to work full-time,” he said.

The latest report by the education ministry on primary and secondary students shows a declining trend in attendance for the academic year 2021-2022, which saw more than 150,000 primary school students drop out, while 110,000 secondary students also dropped out.