Cambridge Child Development Centre (CDC) in Phnom Penh enjoys the prestige of being the first franchised nursery school and day care centre in Cambodia, and has also recently celebrated enrollment topping 100.
The franchise school, which originated in Singapore, has branches across Asia. Teaching children in English, Mandarin and Khmer whilst covering a broad range of subjects including numeracy, science, music, computer-assisted learning and arts, Cambridge CDC looks after children from 3 months to 5 years old, whilst Cambridge Primary School enrolls students from grades one to six.
“Roy” Chi Meng, founder of Cambridge CDC in Cambodia, recalls he was having difficulty in finding a qualified school for his children. Upon discussion with his friends he found that there was a hole in the market for quality education in Cambodia. This sparked the idea to contact the Singaporean branch of Cambridge CDC and eventually led to the decision to bring high-quality education from developed countries to Cambodian students.
“At that time the fact is that even my children were paying high fees to study at famous schools, but they did not get the quality that I hoped,” Roy said. “So I decided to contact a partner in Singapore to bring brand-name Cambridge Kindergarten to Cambodia. It also has branches in England and its base is in Singapore – near Cambodia – and the institution is recognised around the world, so I felt I had to do it at any cost.
“Cambridge kindergarten requires each pupil pay over $2,000 a year,” Roy says. “Our curriculum basically uses English as the priority followed by Chinese and finally Khmer.”
According to Roy, the school has far exceeded his initial expectations of 70-80 students when he first opened the gates in April 2010. With more than 100 students, the school has had to reconsider what was suitable for this educational project.
“What forced our colleagues to accept a bit more than the expected figure was that they wanted to provide a good educational standard for Cambodian students,” Roy says. “Parents always try to find a good school to send their children to with the interest of their futures in mind.”
Encouraged by the positive feedback from the parents of their students, the school’s management is now considering alternative ways to expand the school.
“We have conducted a study on an eight-floor building construction project for an educational centre which would make us able to open a vocational training school with good quality,” Roy says.
Teachers in Singapore traditionally must have a bachelor’s degree to be able to teach, however the relaxed laws in Cambodia means that they are able to recruit those who have more experience in a teaching or within a specialised environment.
“Many of my friends and I have experiences of recruiting workers who have a bachelor degree but lack skills in performing their work even after graduation,” says Roy. “I see this as a lacking point – we need a proper vocational training school so that with our human resources, we can become an employee with high productivity to help promote Cambodia’s national economy to be better.”
International students make up approximately 30 per cent of the students. Hailing from China, Japan, Korea, Russia, India, Sri Lanka and other Asian nations, they are not only attracted to the renowned school name but to the high level of personalised care provided for the children in addition.
Located in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Keng Kang I, an expatriate hub, it is no wonder that Cambridge CDC has attracted teachers from a variety of backgrounds including North America, Singapore, the Philippines, China and Cambodia, exposing the students to a variety of cultures, enhancing and nurturing their education.
Having studied in both Europe and Asia, Roy believes that a good education modelled on the systems of developed countries can be used in Cambodia to impart knowledge and help the country develop.
In April 2010, Cambridge CDC in Cambodia opened with a total of 10 students, including Roy’ children. A year later, word of mouth had travelled and the kindergarten had nearly 100 students. Who knows where the school will be in another four years.