In its latest survey, a social welfare NGO in Cambodia has found that students and parents are having a hard time adopting to distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has forced the government to close down all schools and universities across the Kingdom.
From May 4 to May 23, 187 students and parents, most of whom are living in Phnom Penh, participated in an online poll conducted by Social Action for Community and Development. Although more than 80 percent of the participants understand the benefits of e-Learning, including acquiring IT skills, over 70 percent claimed they have faced many challenges to obtain knowledge through the non-traditional way of learning.
“These challenges include additional expenses for internet services and purchases of devices [such as computers, smartphones, iPads or tablets] as well as loss of time caused by slow internet services or disruptions,” SACD said in its report, which was released yesterday.
“Moreover, some student participants said they cannot meet their friends and feel stressed due to the complicated learning process. Some others said they are not ready because they have not received instructions about or understood such a manner of learning.”
Some of the parents said in the survey they are tensed since they needed to spend more time on assisting their children in studies. One of them even expressed concern about the quality of education and his children’s inability to interact with other students.
Chrek Sophea, SACD coordinator, said the result of the survey also shows a substantial inequality among students in Cambodia when it comes to e-Learning.
“Children who are sent to expensive, private schools are more familiar with and better equipped for distance learning, while children from underprivileged families are having a hard time attending online lessons,” she said. “The poor or average income families who have been affected financially amid the pandemic are likely to focus more on their livelihood and wellbeing rather than their children’s education.”
Ms Sophea said although the Ministry of Education has been showing great effort in promoting e-Learning, including airing distance learning programmes or e-Learning on the National Television of Kampuchea and some cable TV channels, not all students have access to these.
“There are still many families in the rural areas who do not have a television set or are living in remote areas where the channel-aired learning programmes are not available,” she said.
Ms Sophea added that many parents and students who participated in the survey asked for free or less expensive internet services and devices to facilitate distance learning.
“The solution to all these problems is probably to reopen schools, but for now, as the coronavirus is still spreading, it is hard to do so,” she said. “Therefore, it is important to give parents and students assistance for e-Learning so that the quality of education can be ensured.”
Grave concern has been expressed about the quality of education, not only in the Kingdom but worldwide since many countries have to keep their schools closed to contain the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Development Programme even warned that global human development, which takes into account a combination of the world’s education, health and living standards, could decline this year for the first time since 1990s, no thanks to the global public health crisis.