What We Do

Operational Focus

   Development Philosophy
   Informed Approach

Why We Work in Cambodia

   Cambodia: a troubled history
   Education in Cambodia

Our Programs

   Teach the Teacher
   Better Schools
   Getting to School

Operational Focus

SeeBeyondBorders' mission is to provide Cambodian children with access to quality teaching and learning at school. Our objective is to have more children complete their primary education and progress to lower secondary school.

To achieve this, we train local teachers in three (3) provinces through workshops and mentoring programs; develop school infrastructure; and support local families with educating their children, through our core programs:

  • Teach the Teacher
  • Better Schools
  • Getting to School

We are committed to respecting and engaging local communities; to sustainably improving education standards in Cambodia; and to working with our development partners who help shape our approach.

We promote local participation, management, responsibility and ownership across all our programs.

SeeBeyondBorders is a non-religious and non-political organisation. We are registered as a charity in Australia and the United Kingdom and operate as a registered international non-government organisation in Cambodia.

The diagram below illustrates the key aspects of our operations and engagement with our stakeholder groups that are integral to the successful delivery of our programs and ultimately our mission:

SeeBeyondBorders Operational Model

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Development Philosophy

SeeBeyondBorders' development philosophy advocates that all children should have the opportunity to achieve at school and that school should be where children are empowered to improve their own lives.

SeeBeyondBorders also recognises that delivering sustainable development for communities living in poverty is a complex issue. To implement and run programs that foster this philosophy requires certain preconditions, the principal amongst these being:

1. Demonstrated Commitment: The starting point is to identify a community’s commitment to education before any SeeBeyondBorders project activity can be considered. Communities wanting to improve their livelihoods need to be able to recognise that education provides a breakpoint to the cycle of poverty.

2. Integrated Support Structures: For an education system to be able to deliver the desired outcomes for children, their families and communities’ basic needs have to be met; appropriate learning environments and facilities are required; and schools should be staffed by competent, trained teachers.

3. Local Knowledge and Understanding: Experience in both working closely with communities and helping them build their own aspirations is essential and takes time. Working with partners who have such a background and hence detailed local knowledge, helps SeeBeyondBorders identify where it can best target its activities and assists us in delivering appropriate and sustainable programs.

4. Connection to Outcomes: For SeeBeyondBorders to be able to provide sustainable development, it is necessary for us to facilitate meaningful encounters between donors and recipients. When this is achieved: a) donors gain a clear understanding of the needs of the local people and how they might achieve their goals; and b) recipients of support are more likely to participate actively in reaching these goals.

5. Ownership Rests with the Community: Ultimately, responsibility for the education system rests with the community and with their government. SeeBeyondBorders can provide support by mobilising resources and transferring skills. It cannot colonise the schooling system by setting up its own parallel institutions or systems, taking on the role of government. Therefore programs and initiatives must complement and support existing government initiatives, partnering with local education authorities.

Throughout our SeeBeyondBorders programs we incorporate continual evaluation, learning and ongoing development – with an underlying principal that we pursue development and not welfare. We specifically do not support the institutionalisation of children as is likely to occur in orphanages, believing that their future is best secured as an integral part of their own communities.

We acknowledge internationally recognised human rights principles and our approach to all issues is based upon respect and the promotion of dignity. In all we do, we are mindful of what we call ‘cross-cutting themes’, being cultural issues or patterns of behaviour that are evident across all of our development initiatives. We identify the principal cross-cutting issue as one of gender equality, so we particularly focus on promoting the education and participation of women and on discussing and promoting issues relating to gender.

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Informed Approach

SeeBeyondBorders’ programs are designed and delivered through a deep knowledge and understanding of the current situation in Cambodia regarding education and the barriers to education. Our approach is further informed by the past and present work of reputable international agencies and the Royal Government of Cambodia in the area of education and learning.

SeeBeyondBorders works with respected organisations and recognises international policies and guidelines to ensure that we deliver the best and most sustainable programs.

We particularly recognise the importance of UNICEF’s Child Friendly Schools framework, as adopted by The Royal Government of Cambodia’s Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS). The MoEYS adopted and adapted Child Friendly Schools Policy is the benchmark for SeeBeyondBorders' programs in Cambodia.

> UNICEF’s Child Friendly Schools framework

SeeBeyondBorders' programs and objectives are also informed by the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal Number 2: ‘Achieve universal primary education’

> UN Millennium Development Goal Number 2

In Cambodia, SeeBeyondBorders is a member of BEST, the Battambang Education Sector Team, which is a collaboration of organisations working in the education sector in the province of Battambang.

SeeBeyondBorders also has an accreditation with the NSW Institute of Teachers and is a full-member of The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).

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Why we work in Cambodia

Cambodia: A troubled history

The Cambodian people continue to show the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, having struggled through years of bloodshed, poverty and political instability. Today over 50% of the population is under 21 years of age and 80% live in rural areas with poor education, dependent on subsistence farming. The fragility of life belies the big smiles and warm gestures that Cambodians are well known for.

But how did Cambodia get here? From as far back as the 14th century, the country was ravaged by invasion and war. In the 19th century, a weak King Norodom requested the French establish a protectorate over his country, which saw trade develop in the cities but little if any investment in rural areas.

During World War II, Cambodia was occupied by the Japanese, with the French re-entering in 1946 until independence was granted in 1953. Shortly there-after, Cambodia became an unwitting participant in the Vietnam War, which began in the late 1950s and saw North Vietnamese troops occupy much of northern Cambodia. This resulted in America dropping more bombs on the country than they had used during the entire Second World War, killing nearly one million Cambodians.

'80% of Cambodian teachers were lost and by the end of the carnage, only 54 teachers remained in Cambodia.'

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh only days before the North Vietnamese took Saigon. So began perhaps the darkest period in Cambodian history. The Khmer Rouge regime killed nearly 2 million more Cambodians, particularly targeting the educated, winding the clocks back to 'Year Zero'. They dismantled the school system, burnt all money and closed the temples. 80% of Cambodian teachers were lost and by the end of the carnage, only 54 teachers remained in Cambodia.

After extensive provocation, the Vietnamese invaded in 1978 and an uneasy occupation over most of the country continued until 1989. Civil war racked the country with four or more factions fighting one another particularly in the north and west of the country along the Thai border.

The United Nations administered the country’s first national elections in 1993 and although Cambodia has far greater stability today, it relies heavily on foreign aid and contends with extensive levels of corruption.

If Cambodia is to make significant progress in recovering from its troubled past, it will require the support of wealthy neighbouring countries such as our own.

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Education in Cambodia

Up to half of Cambodia's children do not complete primary school. Girls are often the first to drop out, yet one more year of schooling can increase a girl's future earnings by up to 20%. Through SeeBeyondBorders’ programs, it costs just $168 to educate a child for a year. That's only $14 a month.

Whilst initial primary school enrolment rates are high, students frequently drop out and repetition rates run at around 8% per annum nationally. Drop out rates are highest in rural areas, where 80% of Cambodians live. Significantly, over 20% of children in rural areas drop out in the transition from primary school to lower secondary school – so that nationally only 35% of eligible children attend grade seven.


Studies show a complex interaction between demand and supply, or push and pull factors, most prominent amongst which are:

Demand Factors: Supply Factors:
Educational relevance Teacher capabilities and motivation
Family income / child labour Education facilities and resources
Peripheral costs School access
Parent communications Community engagement by schools
Poor child engagement

Percentage Enrolments

Figure 1 above demonstrates the percentage of Cambodian children enrolled in primary school in grade one, compared with grade seven, in urban, rural and remote areas.

Primary retention rates

Figure 2 demonstrates primary school retention rates in developing countries - the percentage of children starting grade one and reaching grade six. Cambodia is listed as the country with the worst retention rate of 54.5% and regressing.

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Our Programs

SeeBeyondBorders' programs have been developed out of recognition that the challenges to Cambodia’s education system are multi-dimensional, and solutions will require a holistic approach. Therefore, we deliver three core programs:

1. Teach the Teacher
2. Better Schools
3. Getting to School

Our programs support the United Nation's Millennium Development Goal Number Two, “Achieve universal primary education”, and have been designed around UNICEF’s Child Friendly Schools framework, as adopted and adapted by The Royal Government of Cambodia’s Ministry of Education Youth and Sport.

> UN Millennium Development Goal Number 2

> UNICEF’s Child Friendly Schools framework

Our programs address issues regarding access to, and quality of, education. Through our programs, we aim to contribute to lasting change in Cambodia – beginning with education.

Teach the Teacher

Teach the Teacher is SeeBeyondBorders’ main program. It focuses on quality education by improving primary school teachers’ professional knowledge and teaching practice through a focus on mathematics.

Teach the Teacher provides:
- teacher training workshops facilitated by volunteer Australian teachers
- in-school support through peer to peer mentoring programs
- appropriate teaching resources for the classroom.

> Teachers who want to volunteer can find out more here.

Better Schools

The Better Schools program involves improving teaching and learning environments at school, primarily through infrastructure work.

Priorities are:
- safety in the school community
- health - particularly water and sanitation
- facilities that aid participation, such as playgrounds, gardens, sports fields and art areas
- teacher housing

> To volunteer, find out more here.

Getting to School

The Getting to School program increases community commitment and school attendance by offering targeted support to families educating their children. Activities address social, economic and health issues.

Getting to School provides:
- food, uniforms and books to those families in particular need
- assistance with transport to school
- supplementary tuition
- sports, art and health programs to make school more interesting and to develop skills

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