With a wide range of international schools in Cambodia, parents of
prospective students can set their children on a suitable education
path early by thinking carefully about accreditation
Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Students at the oldest international school in Cambodia, the Lycee Francais Rene Descartes, established in 1951.
INTERNATIONAL Schools in Phnom Penh offer a broad spectrum of learning programs for the Kingdom's students, catering to those from kindergarten through to year 12.
But with different schools come different approaches. Curriculums vary and there is no single global model to which international schools must adhere.
Dan Hines, the principal of Logos International School, said parents of prospective students needed to take this into account when considering where to send their children to study.
"There are a lot of schools in Cambodia that offer a great education, but there are a lot that also offer nothing," Hines said. "It is important for students to attend schools that are accredited, so that universities have a frame of reference; they know where a school is coming from."
Christian-run Logos, which is accredited through the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and Cambridge's International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGSEC), offers an education based on Christian values.
Other accrediting bodies for international schools include the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), International Baccalaureate (IB) and the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS).
The nonprofit International School of Phnom Penh offers three different curriculums, based around the IB diploma, an academically challenging program designed to give students a balanced education to prepare them for university and life beyond.
ISPP headmaster Jim Canavan said his school was the only one in Cambodia that offered an IB diploma, but warned it was not suitable for all students.
It is important
for students to attend schools that are accredited.
"It's academically too challenging for some, which is why we offer a range of three curriculums," Canavan said.
Apart from the IB program, students can also study for either an ISPP diploma or an ISPP diploma supplemented with IB program credit points.
Canavan describes the IB program as "portable", because it offers students an internationally recognised curriculum which, should their family choose to move, they can pick up anywhere in the world. It is also flexible, accommodating children of different nationalities and requirements.
For instance, all students are required to learn two languages, but it is possible for French students to study French as their first language.
The oldest international school in Cambodia, Lycee Francais Rene Descartes, was established in 1951 and is closely associated to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, offering discounted fees to French tax-payers.
The school is part of the Association of French Schools Abroad (AFSA), which is a network of 400 French schools in 127 different countries that base their curriculum on the French public education system. The school caters to all nationalities, but around 70 percent of students are French-Khmer and 20 percent Khmer. The school integrated bilingual learning in 2008 in an effort to ensure fluency in both French and English for all students.
Northbridge International School (NISC) offers a curriculum based on the North American model, accredited through WASC, ensuring students graduate with an education at or above international learning standards.
Students can also do Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which show a student's ability to tackle college units and can earn them credit at universities worldwide.
WASC routinely monitors and evaluates institutions through its ongoing accreditation program, ensuring the institution remains trustworthy and its learning programs appropriate. While there are a number of similar bodies in the US, WASC is widely recognised as one of the oldest and most trusted.
With lessons only in English, Northbridge applies an international focus to its AP system curriculum. Northbridge director of admissions Johnathan Bodsworth said the learning format replaced units specific to the US, such as US history, with units of international relevance. "We offer units such as Cambodian studies, and we rotate the program each year to offer a global perspective," Bodsworth said.