A new study has found that disabled children in Cambodia still face challenges while in primary school and NGOs have urged the Education Ministry to provide more inclusive education opportunities for them.
NGO Education Partnership and Open Institute yesterday released research on an assessment of children with disabilities in accessing primary education in Cambodian in order to understand challenges, opportunities and ways forward for them.
The study surveyed 250 students with physical disabilities and 400 primary school teachers. Participants were selected from Prey Veng, Kratie, Kampot, and Battambang provinces and Phnom Penh.
According to the research, 17 percent of 250 participating disabled children had a total seeing or hearing disability, and following Ministry of Education criteria, needed to attend special education to learn communication skills – Braille or sign language – before they could attend mainstream inclusive classes.
Only 22 percent of the participants were actually enrolled in special schools or integrated classes, while half of the rest were out of school and the other half were enrolled in mainstream schools.
Of the 83 percent of participants who could directly attend mainstream schools, 72 percent of them were enrolled and attending school, 14 percent had never enrolled and 14 percent had dropped out.
Phong Kimchhoy, a research consultant from the Open Institute, said the findings showed that the main barriers to access and enrolment in mainstream schools were lack of disability identification, severe movement disability, and intellectual ability.
“For children requiring special education, the main barrier to access seems to be lack of special education facilities near their homes, especially in rural areas, and the lack of teachers trained to meet the learning needs of disabled children,” he said.
The report also showed that the dropout rate for disabled children was found to be higher than the other students, but it must be considered that 14 percent of the disabled children had not enrolled in the first place.
Teachers identified lack of training and lack of learning materials as the main barriers to providing a quality education to disabled children.
Kann Puthy, deputy director of the Education Ministry’s primary education department, said the department agreed with the report findings that disabled children still have some challenges.
“The ministry also has a budget to help disabled children by providing some tools to them such as listening devices, glasses, and wheelchairs in order to give them a chance to learn at school like other children,” he said.
Pen Thavy, deputy director of the ministry’s special education department, said that the ministry does not want to create special schools for disabled children because it does not want to see them learn in a different social environment.
“When we put disabled children in different schools, it means we have separated them from the social environment of non-disabled children. And creating another school for them would require too much budget. We urge them to study with each other in one social environment,” she said.