How UNESCO is helping adults resume their education in Cambodia

BEEP graduate Ms Pech Saviya sits her exam in Cambodia and is assisted by facilitator Mr. Sarang Kimsrun.

In Cambodia, this year’s International Literacy Day was celebrated as education institutions are on the brink of reopening after country-wide closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The disruption to education affected not only school children but some 220,000 learners in non-formal education settings.

When the pandemic hit, UNESCO’s Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme built on its long-term support to Cambodia’s non-formal education sub-sector to ensure continuous learning. The Programme supported the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports (MoEYS) with ongoing initiatives targeting vulnerable and marginalized learners such as raising awareness about COVID-19 through Community Learning Centres and factory literacy classes, digitizing the National Literacy Programme’s learning materials, producing educational videos in six subjects (Khmer, Math level I, Math level II, Chemistry, Physics and English)to facilitate self-learning, and providing flexible learning opportunities for youth through Cambodia’s Basic Education Equivalency Programme (BEEP). In addition, the BEEP platform was customized and opened for lower secondary school students to access supplementary learning resources during the nation-wide school closure.

UNESCO has been supporting the BEEP since 2017. It is a joint initiative between UNESCO, the MoEYS and the Ministry of Labour of Vocational Training (MLVT) to provide flexible alternative education to out-of-school youth. To date, 22 BEEP learning centers have been established across 13 provinces. Those who pass their assessments are awarded basic education certificates that will enable them to continue their education at vocational high schools or TVET centers.

“For those who dropped out of school, please don’t give up and enroll in BEEP for better employment opportunities,” said Pech Saviya, a graduate BEEP learner during an interview with UNESCO. Pech dropped out of school due to financial reasons and is currently a community volunteer for youth development programmes. Her ambition is to acquire the certificates she needs through BEEP to enroll in agriculture skills training so she can work for the Government’s agricultural sector. “I thought I would have no opportunity to enroll in skills training. After taking the online course, I am hopeful to proceed with what I’ve planned.

During educational institution closures due to COVID-19, the BEEP proved a key tool to ensure the continuation of learning as its resources are accessible online. To build on this momentum, UNESCO redoubled its support to the BEEP and helped produce and broadcast an additional 122 exercise-teaching videos. In total, over a million learners accessed the content.

I am now more hopeful than ever before.

“I am now more hopeful than ever before.” These are the words of BEEP graduate Mut Vibol. As an orphan who needed to support his grandmother, he dropped out of school in Grade 6. Mut earns his living as a taxi driver but dreams of becoming an electrician. He found the BEEP platform interactive and was able to continue working alongside his studies. He plans to enroll in an electronics course at Battambang Institute of Technology (BIT) and then open an electronics shop outside his home.

BEEP graduate Mr Mut Vibol.

Since BEEPs launch in February 2019, 976 learners (52% female) have enrolled in the programme. Despite the temporary closure of learning centers, due to COVID-19, over 200 new learners enrolled in the programme in 2021 and BEEP final exams continued to be held. As the BEEP has been integrated into the Education Strategic Plan (ESD 2019-2023), successful graduates are awarded a certificate formally accredited by MoEYS and MLVT. So far, 205 learners have graduated, and 60% of them have gone on to enroll in a Level 1 TVET programme to continue their studies.

UNESCO’s support to Cambodia’s non-formal education sub-sector occurs in parallel to CapED’s work on training government officials in data management to better monitor progress towards SDG4 targets, as well as acting as the Global Partnership for Education’s Co-Grant Agent to strengthen early grade teacher training.

UNESCO’s Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme is funded by Finland, France, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.