Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Teacher salaries high on minister's agenda

Teacher salaries high on minister's agenda

Teacher salaries high on minister's agenda

Post reporter Cheang Sokha interviewed the new Minister

of Education, Youth and Sport, Kol Pheng, about his views on the future for the education

sector in Cambodia.

What is your vision?

That within ten to fifteen years from now we will have a new generation of youth

embedded with a culture of peace, non-violence, and high moral code of conduct, and

with smiles on their faces.

Youth of the new generation shall be equipped with a healthy body and a strong mental

discipline, otherwise they cannot succeed in life. To reach this goal, we must review

our existing curriculum in primary and secondary education so we can add more time

for moral and civic education. We should reinforce health and physical education

at the primary and secondary schools.

We need the full cooperation of the Ministry of Health, where it can assist us in

teaching our students preventive medicine and proper nutrition for children and young

adults. Our teachers, education inspectors, principals, administrators are also required

to have regular additional training and professional advancement. However, we do

need salary adjustments for our teachers in order to achieve our goal: healthy body,

healthy mind.

How will you fight corruption in the education system?

According to information gathered from my predecessors [Pok Than and Im Sethy], in

the past few years there were no real cases of corruption on the Baccalaureate examinations.

I will give my special attention to this issue.

Cheating harms mostly those who cheat. We have to eradicate this culture, by teaching

students and their parents to understand the bad consequences of their actions. We

have to prevent students from cheating from kindergarten age. I will consider establishing

a new department to concentrate on developing tests, examinations, or any other alternatives

and policies.

How can you improve the quality of education?

Education in Cambodia is not up to international standard although we have received

a lot of assistance since we returned to peace. We need to look into the real issues

our ministry is facing right now: budget constraints, facility constraints, low teachers'

salaries, and not only low, but also late payment of salaries.

The general population growth rate is 2.4 percent per year; 52 percent of our 12

million people are under 21 years of age. So our absorption problem is enormous at

the primary and secondary schools. Our students can attend classes for only about

four hours a day. This is not enough. We need to increase some teaching hours, but

we need also to increase our teachers' salaries or their teaching premium.

The quality of education is directly related to the living conditions of teachers:

their peace of mind. When they are happy they can concentrate more on their teaching.

I will look into all possibilities to find ways to get additional compensation for

our teachers. I know it is not easy, however I will do my best.

All of this depends on our economic growth and development, but we have to find ways

to improve the living conditions of the teachers. The government has already agreed

to increase the salary between 10 and 15 percent a year, but this is not enough to

match the actual cost of living.

I hope that under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen in this mandate we can

push forward for new quality improvement, especially the implementation of "Education

For All", and the "Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government".

Building a good foundation at the primary level is fundamentally important. We have

to train our students to read, and to read, and to read. So I will look for assistance

in order to obtain mobile libraries as well as fixed libraries for each school from

our generous friends who love education. Student volunteers from higher education

could be requested to tutor our primary and secondary students who stand behind the

crowd.

What is your political background?

I was born in Takeo province in 1939. I joined politics as part of my decision to

serve my motherland after receiving a good education supported by His Majesty the

King during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era.

I joined Funcinpec in 1998. I was a Member of Parliament for Takeo and the Secretary

General of the National Assembly in 1998, during the second mandate of the government.

I believe that the political platform agreed by Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime

Minister Hun Sen will give the Cambodian youth of this generation and the next hope

for a brighter future.

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