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Government issues strategies for reopening schools

Va Sonyka / Khmer Times Share:
A student doing distance learning via TVK at his home in the capital. KT/Khem Sovannara

An inter-ministerial committee has released several strategies for the reopening of educational institutions in the new academic year 2020-2021.

However, education experts say the strategies, which include distance learning, will pose a new challenge for Cambodia’s efforts to improve the quality of education.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Finance Minister Aun Pornmonirath, Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron and Health Minister Mam Bun Heng decided that all educational institutions would be allowed to reopen since the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. However, the institutions must follow strict health guidelines in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

In a statement, the interministerial committee said all institutions have to adjust their education system in accordance with the New Normal Life principle to ensure the safety of both students and education staff.

The committee also instructed school directors to continue practicing the multi-strategy approach for teaching which include distance and e-learning as well as studying in physical classrooms.

Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association president Ouk Chayavy yesterday said the e-learning method is not effective for Cambodian schools and students.

She said it is better to reopen all school as normal with COVID-19 hygienic measure strictly put in place.

“Many students from low income families and those in remote areas will drop out if the schools remain closed for a long time, despite classroom lessons being replaced with distance and e-learning,” Chayavy said.

“It is better if we could reopen schools as normal for students to study in physical classrooms. We could limit the number of students per class, revise lesson timetables, improve hygiene measures and provide better pay for teachers,” she added.

Sek Sokhmonineath, a Grade 7 student of a public school in Phnom Penh, said she finds it difficult to study online since the school closure due to pandemic. She said although it is disease-free method for study, she has noticed her ability to study has decreased noticeably.

“Unlike the other schools, my school is providing online study via Facebook messenger. As it is difficult to do video calls, my teachers prefer to send documents to our chat group and I can’t really understand the lessons much,” she said.

Sokhmonineath’s father Sek Sokha expressed his concern over the online education platform. He appealed to the Education Ministry devise a better method using teachers and related educational staff who are well trained on how to provide quality education through online platforms.

“If possible, the ministry should spend time and money to create online lessons and also to provide training to teachers. It should also find ways to reduce technical problems which disrupt  online classes,” said he said.

However, Sokha said: “Although the current distance learning platform is not very good, it’s better than not having classes for our children during this pandemic.”

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