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A new curriculum up in the air

A new curriculum up in the air

THE kite - a plaything for Cambodian kids since time immemorial - is about to be

used to put the fun back into going to school.

In February, through a $3.25 million, three-year educational aid package from the

European Union (EU), the kite will be added to the nationwide primary school curriculum

as a tool to boost learning.

The aim, sponsors say, is to teach fifth-graders and their teachers the art of kite-making

in a way that includes other subjects.

"Using the kite was an idea to make teaching and learning fun for both teachers

and students," said Francois Femia, vice-director of the EU's Program for the

Support of Primary Education (PASEC).

"We wanted to get away from straight book learning and use a sport that is traditional

and popular especially in the provinces."

Sponsors are convinced the new method will stimulate a thirst for learning among

young Cambodians in areas such as history, geometry, physics, literature, religion,

tradition and music.

"To make a kite, students will have to learn how to calculate, draw an angle

to make a triangle, draw a semi-circle which can be incorporated into a geometry

lesson", said Chin Sok Heng, an official with the Ministry of Education, Youth

and Sport.

Femia says a Khmer-language kite-making video has been produced by PASEC and will

be distributed to 45,000 primary school teachers around the country.

As an incentive, teachers will each be given $6 a month for completing the exercise,

he said.

The new teaching method has been tested on older students at Chumpou Wan school.

Students were instructed in the craft of kite-making, by drawing on the knowledge

they acquired in the classroom.

So far, sponsors are excited by the results they have seen. The response to the experiment

from both teachers and students alike has been enthusiastic, they said.

"Having a kite in the teaching program, students pay more attention to their

studies," said Keo Kong, a teacher.

He was not alone in singing the kite's praises.

"Before, I never liked kites, but now I like them very much because they help

me understand my lessons better," said Sok Mara, 16, a student at Chumpou Wan.

Another student was more direct.

"This method will help brush up my brain faster," said Yin Visal.

"It makes me wiser, because we clearly understand about the history of the kite,"

added Soth Chan Nimol, age 13. "We know how to make a kite and fly it high."

Cambodian kites, made of bamboo, paper and rattan, can soar as high as 500 meters.

What makes them stand out from other kites, kite-lovers say, is they are designed

to make musical sounds as they soar through the sky.

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