Impressions of my first visit to a British school

Our Country Manager talks about the impact of his visit to a British primary school on his commitment to education in Cambodia.

[1]Pov Pheung is Country Manager of SeeBeyondBorders in Cambodia

My name is Pov[1]. I have been working in the education sector in Cambodia for almost 15 years, in various positions (teacher, school principal, district education officer) in public institutions and several education-related NGOs. I’ve now been working with SeeBeyondBorders for more than 4 years, and it is this work of which I am the most proud.

I have a dream of a better quality education for Cambodian children and ultimately a better society economy and orders. However, I was not clear what an internationally recognized quality standard of education looked like until I recently visited Orrell Holgate Primary School for two days.

My colleague Reasmey and I were very privileged to visit the UK for two weeks in September 2017. With support from our great friend Sarah Reynolds (UK Country Manager for SeeBeyondBorders) and many other generous people, we managed to see many cities and interesting places. I was keen to observe ways people live, children learn and parents engage in education, therefore, the visit to Orrell Holgate Primary School in Wigan (near Manchester) was a highlight of the trip.

We stayed at Sarah’s sister’s house not far from the school, so we walked there easily. Though it was wet and cold outside, we felt excellent inside with a very warm welcome from Mrs Gail Worrall, the school’s head teacher, as well as all other school staff and students. Mrs Worrall showed us around, introduced us to the school development plan, and the deputy head teacher explained the process of curriculum design and we saw examples of actual lessons delivery.  Teachers explained us how they engage children from different backgrounds and how to track learning progress of individual students. Everyone answered loads of questions from us.

We were very impressed with the high quality of the following:

  • Management of consistencies: school leadership, teachers, students and parents implement activities written in the school development plan systematically with strong ownership.
  • Challenging and lifelong learning environment: students do a lot of research. We did some brief presentations about Cambodia to classes in years 2-6. I was very surprised when I saw some research reports written by year 2 students, and they were very brave standing up and asking me many questions.
  • Ambitious expectations of students: during the House assembly, some students told the audience they want to become internationally famous as a footballer, lawyer, etc.
  • Teaching quality: teachers use interactive activities, engage all students actively in every lesson. Through regular tracking, they know their students clearly and then try the best to fulfill individual need of students. Moreover, all teachers are so enthusiastic about professional development.
  • Variety learning equipment: one teacher, one teaching assistant, smart board and lots of teaching materials were there for every class of about 30 students. No doubt that the government put huge investment in education there.
  • Community Engagement: I just could not believe it that many parents with regular jobs turn on board at school every Friday. This takes creativeness to run the meeting and conversation with those parents for sure.

I’ve tried not to compare Holgate School and schools in Cambodia in details but I can witness that they are completely different in many, many ways except birth intelligence. Children anywhere in the world are born very similar but receive different opportunities to grow up and learn.

Having visited Holgate School, Reasmey and I are even more committed to bring better opportunities for Cambodian children through the work we do at SeeBeyondBorders.


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