Some 130,000 children, particularly the vulnerable, have benefited from the Strengthening Teacher Education Programme in Cambodia (STEPCam) in 2018-19, its first year, Unesco said on Tuesday.
For the three years of STEPCam, a total of 225,000 children will be positively impacted, it added.
The UN agency said the initiative focuses on the role of teachers in building foundations in early learning, with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport providing professional development for more than 4,000 teachers and more than 3,000 education officials.
The three-year programme from 2018 to 2021 was launched by the Ministry of Education and Unesco and has been running for a year, Unesco said.
The initiative is being funded by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and Unesco’s Capacity Development for Education Programme (CapED) to support the Ministry of Education in improving the quality of teaching and learning in early grades.
It focuses on regular professional development, technical support, INSET – in-service training – and mentoring, as well as providing better provincial training centres and instructor capacity.
“STEPCam is grooming better teachers and building better schools, ensuring higher quality and more inclusive learning opportunities for children and thus making sure Cambodia maintains a steady path towards the achievement of [UN] Sustainable Development Goal [SDG] 4,” Unesco said.
Teacher training centres will be renovated and new teaching methods introduced in five provinces – Kratie, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, Stung Treng and Oddar Meanchey. They were selected based on high demand and gaps in early education. By 2020, the programme will expand to additional provinces.
Ministry of Education spokesman Ros Soveacha said STEPCam in its first year had trained 847 first-grade teachers in Khmer language reading and 147 first-grade maths teachers who had taught 32,236 students.
“[STEPCam] promotes the level of training equivalent to a Bachelor's degree, especially for those who do not have a Bachelor's or those with one not related to their subject areas, to enable them to provide INSET [in-service training] in primary school teaching more effectively,” Soveacha said.
In implementing this programme, STEPCam produces child-friendly teaching and learning materials. For Khmer language, STEPCam produces teachers' guidebooks and Khmer language textbooks for students to practise reading and writing, he added.
For maths, STEPCam produces teachers' guidebooks, teaching and learning materials, and student workbooks.
According to the Ministry of Education, the funding for GPE Phase 3 is $20.6 million, focusing on teacher capacity development and education programmes.
"It is anticipated that the Early Grade Learning programme initiated under STEPCam will provide a strong basis for the the Ministry of Education to roll-out the programme nationwide in coming years in achieving SDG 4-Education by 2030, and we will see improved learning scores in Khmer and maths among all young Cambodian students," said Santosh Khatri, the chief of education at Unesco Phnom Penh.
“At the core of the STEPCam programme is the institutionalised INSET professional development of teachers in early grade learning, a capacity development activity working towards the development of more child-friendly and engaging teaching materials, and a new student-centred approach, fostering positive inquiries and active participation.
“STEPCam enhances the importance of building a foundation in reading and maths in the early years, as well as the important role teachers play in this process,” Unesco added.
Unesco in Cambodia is a grant agent and a key partner of the Ministry of Education. STEPCam is the third phase of the GPE in Cambodia since 2008, it added.