The Education Ministry yesterday issued a notice clarifying statistics published by Save the Children in a report that concluded nearly two-thirds of children in Cambodia aged three to five are not in school.
On May 29, Save the Children said in its report that 60 percent of children aged three to five are not enrolled in school.
Elizabeth Pearce, country director of Save the Children Cambodia, said “in the 2018-2019 academic year, only 40 percent of children aged three to five were accessing any form of education.”
In the notice yesterday, the Education Ministry said the statistics were misleading.
“Merging statistics on the education of children aged three to five and then comparing them creates misunderstanding,” the ministry said. “According to the Unesco Institute of Statistics, enrolment rates of certain ages are calculated separately.”
The ministry said for the academic year of 2018-2019, 59,363 (18.5 percent) three-year-olds, 121,958 (39.4 percent) four-year-olds, and 191,832 (63.1 percent) five-year-olds are enrolled in schools.
Huy Khy, spokesman for Save the Children and its senior policy advocacy adviser, yesterday said Save the Children used Education Ministry statistics in their report and that it is grateful for the clarification notice.
“Data collection and the defining of indicators are complex matters and we reaffirm our support of the ministry and will work with them on this matter,” Mr Khy said.
According to Save the Children, despite progress made in reducing the number of out-of-school children over the past 20 years, the government must invest more resources to improve early childhood education.
Ms Pearce said that in 2017, only 0.3 percent of the Education Ministry’s budget was allocated to early childhood education.
She said it was the smallest share of the ministry’s total recurrent budget when compared to other sub-sectors, such as primary education with 3.6 percent, secondary education with four percent and higher education with 1.7 percent.
Ms Pearce said the government needs to increase spending on early childhood education across the Kingdom and prioritise children in remote areas, those from lower economic backgrounds, indigenous children and children with disabilities.
“We ask the Cambodia government to increase resources and investment for development of age-appropriate reading and play materials for children aged zero to six years,” she said. “Especially to increase access to reading resource for young children in rural, remote, and hard to reach areas.”