B OTH students and teachers have been angered by a Education Ministry proposal to ban private lessons in state schools.
The proposal was made by education officials during a three-day annual meeting with teachers.
Many teachers use meal times and evenings to provide paid extra classes in subjects such as English, French, Thai, mathematics, physics and chemistry for 3-400 riel per hour a head.
During the meeting the Ministry of Education officials from various provinces proposed to completely close down the classes. They alleged that the extra classes were frequently disorderly and resulted in vandalism.
The proposed ban on private lessons led to 40 tutors at Preah Sisovath High School holding a meeting on Sept11 to discuss ways of combatting it.
At the meeting it was decided the tutors would send a petition to the Co-Prime Ministers and Education Minister Ung Huot.
One senior tutor alleged at the meeting that there was a sinister motive behind the move - to force students to attend more expensive private colleges which are now springing up in the city.
Like all state employees, teachers wages were very low and the private lessons were the only way they could earn enough money to make ends meet without stooping to corruption, the tutor added.
Ouy Visal, a part-time English teacher at Preah Sisovat High School told the Post : "We are teaching English to the Khmer children to upgrade their knowledge of languages.
"This measure of eliminating part time private classes is the trick of a group of bad people for gathering students to flock into study centers opened by a group of rich people."
He added that few students could afford term fees of around $60 charged by private colleges.
Koeung Dale, 28, a fifth-year student of English at Phnom Penh University said: "In the SOC some officials in the Ministry of Education had a chance to be corrupt.
"Currently they can not be corrupt anymore so they try to find way to earn money. They have just got an idea of setting up English Center, such as the Dara Reasmey English Center."
A 12-year-old boy, Chea Nara, from Chaktomuk High School said: " I do not want them[ Ministry of Education] to close this class because I want to study English. I cannot go to other schools or colleges because it's very far from my house and also I don't have much money for expensive schools."
Ung Huot, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport has sought to defuse the row. He said at Pochentong Airport on Sept 16 before he left for Australia, that the ministry just wanted to re -examine the part-time private classes, which use the buildings of state schools without permission from the ministry.
"We do not want to close the private classes and we do not have the law to close or prohibit those classes but we just have the idea to discuss how to solve the problem of them breaking equipment.
"Now we do not close but we want real supervision. Who is responsible for the cleaning and broken tables? That is why we need a contract between teachers who rent those classes and directors of the schools."