» We need collaboration to achieve quality education, says Cambodian Minister of Education
12.07.2017 - Education Sector

We need collaboration to achieve quality education, says Cambodian Minister of Education

His Excellency Dr Hang Chuan Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport of the Kingdom of Cambodia, spoke to UNESCO about the need for collaboration to achieve quality education. “Governments alone cannot meet all the learning needs of their population and need the support of civil society,” said Minister Naron.

In Cambodia, civil society provides support to schools and institutions in remote areas and floating villages. It provides, for example, additional training and support to meet the learning needs of students with disabilities both in public schools and in specialized centres. “In the long run the students being taught in these specialized centres have to be integrated within the public school system,” asserted the Minister.

Cambodia’s education policy is a precursor of the Sustainable Development Goal 4, having started on a similar path with the reforms it has introduced since 2013. The country's goal was to move from a low-income country to a middle-income country. To do so, the country needed a skilled workforce. Thus, the Ministry of Education set out to expand and strengthen its education system. The Minister noted that they realized that this could be achieved without increased funding for the sector.  “We have worked to steadily increase the education budget from 1% of GDP to 2.5% of GDP and 18.5% of current expenditure with the objective being 20%,” indicated Minister Naron.

A diagnosis of the education system in 2013 pointed to a variety of reforms that were necessary in order achieve the goal of a quality education for all. These involved, among other aspects, a focus on school-based management, teachers, learning outcomes, access to basic as well as higher education.

To address the teacher challenge, Cambodia put in place a comprehensive “Teacher Policy Plan” in order to make the teaching profession respected and attractive once again, attending to salary levels, initial and in-service training and career development.

They also recognized that the investment in expansion in access, school based management and teachers would be wasted if learning outcomes were ignored.  “We needed to make sure the children were actually learning,” affirmed Minister Naron. As such, Cambodia reviewed the literacy and numeracy learning assessments.  The Ministry also reviewed curricula to make it more relevant, responsive to students’ needs and their specific contexts. Particular attention was given to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM) education, as there was a recognition these were the skills most needed by youth and adults alike, in a context of changing labour demands.

While developing national policies in these areas, Cambodia has targeted implementation of the reforms at local school level with supported from the community. “Reforms are very difficult to trickle down so we decided to implement them directly at school level,” explained Minister Naron.

Civil society is also involved at policy level with NGOs participating in bi-annual joint Education working group meetings and various other regular consultations on education policy that the government holds with all stakeholders. To strengthen civil society participation in the region, “what is most important is not to copy each other’s systems but to reflect on our own systems’ strengths and weaknesses while also learning from each other,” said Minister Naron.

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