The Biggest Challenge facing Cambodian Education since the Khmer Rouge

Cambodia is experiencing the largest disruption to its education system since the Khmer Rouge Regime. Total recorded case numbers of COVID-19 in Cambodia have just exceeded 70,000. While this number is comparatively low, 99% of all cases have been recorded in the last four months. The effects of the pandemic on Cambodian people are profound. Cambodia’s economy and education sector has also been hit particularly hard.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s most popular tourist destination now virtually empty

Economic Devastation
Travel and tourism once contributed over 32% to the nation’s GDP. After closing its borders in early 2020, Angkor Wat in Siem Reap province now has less than 10 international visitors daily. The majority of hotels, restaurants, and shops have shuttered their doors leaving thousands struggling to provide even the basic essentials such as food for their families.

Many rural children are just not able to access the online resources for online learning and few parents are able to support their children, even in primary grades. We are using evidence based methods to respond to these learning challenges.
Pheung Pov – Country Manager

Education Halted
Many schools across the country are currently being used as Covid quarantine or testing centers and no plans to reopen schools for learning are in sight. Before the pandemic, the Cambodian education system ranked among the weakest in the world, with less than 3% of Cambodian children reaching baseline levels. Without specialized training teachers lack the skill set to assess and address the learning delays. Many teachers will simply pick up where children should be at when schools reopen and children may never recover essential learning. Furthermore there is a growing danger that many children will never return to school.

The Big Restart SeeBeyondBorders’ Evidence Based Interventions

There are four critical steps to restarting learning.
  1. Set out the essential skills children need to reach their grade outcomes
  2. Help teachers assess where children have reached with their learning
  3. Prepare teachers to differentiate their teaching and recover missing skills amongst their class
  4. Supply resources teachers can use to respond to the diversity in children’s knowledge
Child learning the Khmer alphabet

Our interventions as set against this background will integrate specific teacher training and support, community engagement with the learning challenges, and digital access to both resources and guidance. We aim to foster relationships with beneficiaries to achieve transformational change by integrating various forms of support that could otherwise be seen as simply transactional when viewed singly. Our goal is to develop mindsets that support the development of skill sets.

1. Mapping learning pathways
The first step is to work with the Ministry of Education and other NGOs on sequencing essential skills, identifying Minimum Proficiency Levels , and identifying ways of assessing progress and outcomes achieved. This skill sequence will be mapped against resources that can be used at each level to develop student capacity to the relevant standard. This sequence will both catalogue existing learning resources and identify where new ones are to be developed to provide a complete pathway for children to achieve at least minimum proficiency levels in their grade. Each skill level will also be supported by assessment resources which will combine across early grades to allow teachers to respond effectively to the diversity of learning levels they will encounter in their classes.

2. Developing teacher capabilities
Teacher’s first need will be some orientation with what will initially be a bewildering array of student understanding or recollection from their previous time in school. In particular, teachers will need help with how to differentiate between the learning levels they will have within their classes. Expected outcomes by grade will provide the backbone by subject for teachers to map what children need to know. We will train teachers on using assessment tools to group

Teachers developing skills to differentiate lessons

their students according to learning levels.  This will allow them to differentiate between the pathways they must follow to achieve their grade outcomes. Interventions 1 and 2 will be closely linked.

3. Supporting teachers through mentoring
Our mentoring programs will need to be adapted to meet the new realities for teachers. Mentors will need to be able to support teachers with the new array of challenges they will face when schools reopen and they are again faced with full classrooms. In particular, our staff will work with mentors on how to support the 

Mentor supporting a teacher

wellbeing of teachers and encourage them to take ownership and responsibility for their own professional development.

4. Teachers enabled by technology
Putting quality resources at the fingertips of teachers can transform their ability to deliver engaging and relevant lessons while keeping track of the progress of a diverse range of abilities in their class. We will make learning and assessment resources available from ‘a tablet for a teacher’ including lesson plans and projectable student resources from picture books to a 

Integrating technology into classrooms

variety of reading and mathematics resources. Menus will also allow teachers to access their own professional development resources. Mentors will be able to track what resources are used so they can assist with improving both the resources and teaching commitment. By better understanding their mentee teachers’ needs and interests, mentors will be better informed about how to tailor the individual support they provide. Interventions 3 and 4 will be closely linked.

5. Communities as part of the solution
In these challenging times, community members need each other’s help to maintain a hopeful outlook for their children’s future. While it is every parent’s aspiration that their children will go further and climb higher than they were able to, this is a particular challenge in 

Engaging parents to support their children’s education

Cambodia where children may face many personal difficulties. We will work with communities (particularly mothers) to help them ensure that the dignity of the child and their wellbeing is kept front and center by the whole community and that wherever possible, parents can support the learning of their children as partners with their teachers.

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