Five schools in Siem Reap province and two in Banteay Meanchey have been selected to join a heritage education programme implemented by the Apsara National Authority.

The “Heritage Education Programme” has been running since 2008. This year, seven schools are joining it – three primary and two high schools in Siem Reap, and two primary schools in Banteay Meanchey, near Banteay Chhmar temple, said Im Sokrithy, the director of the Department of Temple Conservation in Angkor.

The course aims to give pupils a more thorough understanding of their cultural heritage. The classes, imparted by technical officers and researchers from the Apsara National Authority, focus on the cultural significance of Cambodia’s vast network of temples. Students will also go on field trips to temples near their schools.

“We also teach students how to conduct research and what is tangible and intangible heritage in the area where they live. Initially, we are choosing schools located near heritage sites, so it is easier to bring students to these sites,” he said.

He said the course aims to instil in students a love for their cultural heritage so that they engage with their communities to protect these ancient treasures.

Courses started this month and will run from six months in primary schools and one year in high schools. One-hour classes are imparted once a week.

Director of the Dissemination Department of Apsara National Authority Long Kosal said one of the goals is to get young people to promote their cultural heritage inside and outside their communities actively.

“We hope to help them better understand their own history and the value of the temples nearby so they can play an active role in protecting them,” Kosal said.

The director-general of Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts Prak Sovannara said it is crucial for students to understand their national heritage from a young age.

“The Cambodian education system aims to teach these students from young about the importance of the country’s history and its temples,” he said.

The Heritage Education Programme, initially implemented in schools in the border provinces of Oddar Meanchey and Banteay Meanchey, is an initiative of the Working Group on Heritage Education of the Apsara National Authority and the Heritage Protection Organisation.