PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The Education Ministry plans to improve the quality of education in primary schools across the country by enforcing stricter protocols for teaching hours, said Education Minister Dr. Hang Chuon Naron on Thursday.
Primary schools in Cambodia are facing a number of issues, and are still lacking in comparison to international standards. A research study by the NGO Education Partnership (NEP) found that at least 50 days of the 186 total days per academic year are lost due to a variety of reasons.
“Our findings showed that too much of the school year is still lost in Cambodia through additional official school holidays, teacher absences, and lessened contact hours through shortened teaching sessions,” the report said.
Cambodia has approximately 7,000 primary schools which employ 53,000 teachers. Almost 2 million students are enrolled for the 2014-2015 school year. The NEP’s research study found that teachers and education managers across the country are actively choosing to reduce the annual school year, and it said that these activities are a “common practice” that is greatly impacting Cambodian children’s right to accessible education.
During the launch event for the “Research Study on Teaching Hours in Primary Schools in Cambodia” on Thursday, Dr. Naron said, “Almost two months of studying hours have been missing, and it highly affects the education quality, especially in rural areas.”
Dr. Naron said the main cause of lost school hours are national holidays. “There are three days of Khmer New Year, but sometimes they [students and teachers] delay attending school for a week.”
Teacher attendance is another problem that needs to be addressed, he said. Citing statistics from a survey, he said 13 percent of teachers in rural areas and 7 percent of teachers in cities are absent more than once a month. In addition, some teachers and students come to school late and leave early.
“We will form a working group to intervene in this case in order to strengthen teacher hours and the school regulations,” said Dr. Naron. He added that parents need to get more involved in their children’s schooling and make sure their kids attend school regularly and on time.
Ang Sopha, NEP’s research coordinator, said that the lost teaching hours are a factor that is weakening the education quality received by Cambodian students. “In Cambodia, students depend on the teachers to teach them, it is different from the schools abroad where students can do research outside of schools,” she said.
“It is no problem for Phnom Penh students because there are libraries for students to research, but what about the rural schools, where they can’t learn anything besides learning with their teachers say,” she added.
Heng Channy, director of Sonthormok Primary School in Phnom Penh, said that there are very good teachers in his school, but the loss of teaching hours affects every school, regardless of the quality of teaching.
“It is caused by the national holidays, and especially the Chinese New Year. And when the ministry needs to use the school classroom for other examinations, for instance the national high school examinations,” he said.
Cheng Sophat, director of the Chea Sim Primary School in Preah Sihanouk province, said some of the primary school teachers are forced to have a part time job in addition to their teaching jobs because of the low pay.
“It would be better if the government can give more benefits to teachers,” Mr. Sophat said.