Education is a booming sector in the Kingdom and, if the past year is anything to go by, Cambodia’s education system appears to be strengthening.
With private and government institutions channelling funds and developing programs to improve the financial literacy as well as career prospects for students, education promotion and reform continues to be a keen area of interest for the government. Though, the past year wasn’t all smooth-sailing in the world of education news, with pressure put on Zaman-operated schools in Phnom Penh to close due to alleged links to an organisation that was blamed for a failed coup in the country.
Education NGOs seek more funds for schools
NGOs tackling education issues in Cambodia launched a campaign urging the government to bump education spending to 20 percent of the country’s national budget in order to improve what they characterised as a beleaguered system.
The budget for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport stands at 18.3 percent of the national budget of $4.3 billion for 2016, said Chin Chanveasna, executive director for the NGO Education Partnership.
A greater boost in funding would lead to higher enrolment and a decrease in students dropping out of school, said San Chey, executive director for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in Cambodia.
Grade-12 test experience getting ‘better’: ministry
While the second and final day of the national Grade 12 exit exams wasn’t entirely free of would-be cheaters, the high-stakes testing was the smoothest yet since the introduction of tough new standards in 2014, officials said.
“The candidates understood and obeyed the exam’s regulations,” said Ministry of Education spokesman Ros Salin, adding it had gone “better” than the previous two years.
However absences jumped. Of the 93,752 students registered to take the exam, 1,361 failed to show yesterday, up from 1,282 on day one. Nearly 1,000 of the students who failed to show were retaking the exam after failing in previous attempts, Salin said.
Despite high awareness of the anti-cheating measures in place, monitors across the country still managed to confiscate cheat-sheets, electronic devices, calculators and even a pair of sandals with written notes on the bottom.
Turkey again calls for closure of Zaman schools
Turkish Ambassador to Cambodia Ilhan Tug used a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhon to again make his case for the closure of the Kingdom’s Zaman schools, according to spokesman Chum Sounry, who said the request will be taken into consideration.
In July, Tug said his country was seeking the closure of all schools affiliated with the Gulen Movement, founded by Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish government has accused of being the mastermind behind a recent attempted coup.
But Hakan Atasever, public relations director for Zaman, yesterday said school officials remain ready to cooperate and trust that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and related offices “will act objectively and fair while handling this issue”.
Asian Development Bank announces $45M loan for secondary education
The Asian Development Bank has approved a $45 million loan for Cambodia to overhaul its upper secondary education in order to address the increased demand for skilled workers.
Several measures will be undertaken to reform the sector: math, science and information technology curricula will be reviewed and updated; new Grade-12 student textbooks and teacher guides will be provided for all subjects; the number of teacher housing units will be expanded in areas of high need; upper secondary education facilities will be expanded; and equipment and furniture for 12 resource centres will be purchased, according to an announcement from the bank.
Education officials get off with lenient rap for exam violations
Despite warnings of dire consequences, nine staff members singled out for violating rules during the national Grade 12 exam will face only light punishments, the Education Ministry said yesterday – an action at least one transparency NGO said would “not deter other public officials from potentially committing corruption”.
The punishments stem from one bribery case, three cases of illegal mobile phone use during the exam, one case where a teacher asked someone to handle her monitoring duties and four cases of duties being fulfilled “carelessly”, the ministry said.
The unnamed individuals will face such punishments as verbal or written reprimands, being banned from monitoring exams or the elimination of promotions.
Schools to offer career guidance
As part of ongoing education reforms, a new curriculum set to be implemented in 2018 will address the lack of career counselling in high schools across Cambodia, a Ministry of Education official told attendees of an education forum.
The Kingdom has long endured a gap between the skills students have when they graduate from university and those needed to meet the labour market’s demands, and education officials said that counselling young students on their interests – as well as what’s available – would help to close that gap.
Deal struck by Microsoft, Education Ministry
Microsoft signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to implement the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework, a three-pronged initiative that will be rolled out at selected schools in the capital from December 2016 until April 2017.
The technology giant said the framework would focus on training teachers on technology adoption, creating technology-friendly classrooms and teaching with technology.
According to Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron, 50 teachers will receive training from Microsoft experts before training teachers themselves.
Remedy eyed to put roof over kindergarten kids
The Education Ministry is studying the feasibility of building new classrooms for kindergarten students in Battambang’s O’Char commune, where 103 students are currently being taught outdoors, an official said yesterday.
Provincial education department director Ngy Set said there was a meeting with officials from the ministry’s construction department, and it was determined that construction for the new kindergarten would begin later this year, though an exact location was still unknown. A previous kindergarten for the area has long been too dilapidated to use.
First day of school for financial literacy campaign
The central bank began distributing materials to schools as part of a program aimed at increasing the low financial literacy of Cambodians, which studies have shown makes them vulnerable to over-indebtedness and fraud.
The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) sent out 100,000 comic books titled Let’s Talk Money! to primary schools nationwide. The books, developed in cooperation with Good Return, an Australian NGO that promotes financial inclusion and responsible lending, aim to educate children aged 8 to 12 on the basic concepts of savings, interest rates and managing daily expenses.
Cambodians fared poorly on the 2015 Global FinLit Survey, a global measurement of financial literacy by Standard & Poor’s, with only 18 percent of those surveyed able to answer three of four questions on basic financial literacy.