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Region in ‘learning crises’

A teacher guides students through an exercise in at Phnom Penh’s Wat Koh High School in 2014. A World Bank report released on Thursday says that a 60 percent of the region’s students are in educations systems with ‘learning crises’. Photo supplied
A teacher guides students through an exercise in at Phnom Penh’s Wat Koh High School in 2014. A World Bank report released on Thursday says that a 60 percent of the region’s students are in educations systems with ‘learning crises’. Photo supplied

Region in ‘learning crises’

A whopping 60 percent of students in the region, including those in Cambodia, are enrolled in education systems that are grappling with “learning crises” and are failing to provide them with the skills they need to succeed, according to a new report released by the World Bank on Thursday.

That percentage represents a total of 97.9 million students – some 3.5 million in the Kingdom – according to the report.

The report says the other 40 percent, or 63.8 million of the East Asia and the Pacific region’s students, are enrolled in top-performing or above-average systems, in countries like China and Vietnam.

“Yet up to 60 percent of students in East Asia and Pacific are in poorly performing school systems where performance in key subjects is either low or unknown,” the report reads. “Students in rural Cambodia, Indonesia, or the Lao People’s Democratic Republic may perform farm duties before having to undertake a long walk to an ill-equipped rural school and sit in a classroom staffed by an underprepared teacher.”

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron couldn’t be reached for comment, and ministry spokesman Ros Salin didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In Cambodia and East Timor, more than 30 percent of all grade-2 students cannot read a single word, the study found, although in the case of the Kingdom, researchers used data from 2012 for this particular finding.

Amer Hasan, one of the report’s co-authors, said he was unable to provide the current rate.

Sam Oeun Chin, education officer at Action Aid, said only 50 percent of primary school students passed a 2017 national assessment of reading and writing conducted by the Ministry of Education.

Oeun Chin, meanwhile, wasn’t taken aback by the finding that Cambodia’s education system was failing to provide students with adequate skills. For example, he said, the Education Ministry in 2006 approved a policy to provide life skills at the primary level, but there are still limitations.

“I think something has to improve so [schools] can provide skills for [students] to succeed in real life,” he said.

“There are some gaps in the implementation of policy.” He added the Education Ministry is in the process of updating outmoded policies.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said he disagreed that the education system in Cambodia is at a point where it’s facing a crisis, although he allowed that “primary education is a concern”, along with education equity.

“I do not agree with all of this report, but I observe that the knowledge [and] learning outcomes between students in downtown and rural areas are different due to various reasons of family factors, learning opportunities and teaching quality,” he said.

Many of the low-performing education systems, such as the ones in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, have implemented teacher reforms with “varying degrees of success”, the report says.

“Comprehensive reform requires a sober assessment of capacity and constraints, area of high impact with ‘leapfrog’ potential and the steps to be performed,” the report reads.

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