Nearly two-thirds of Cambodian children aged three to five are not in school, according to a report by Save the Children.
The organisation said yesterday that 60 percent of children aged three to five are not enrolled in school.
It said 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.
Elizabeth Pearce, country director of Save the Children Cambodia, said that in 2017 only 0.3 percent of the Education Ministry’s budget was allocated to early childhood education.
Ms Pearce 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.
“We know there is much to celebrate in Cambodia, as the situation for some children has improved, but […] the low access to early childhood education still remains a challenge,” she said. “In the 2018-2019 academic year, only 40 percent of children aged three to five were accessing any form of education.”
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.”
Dy Kamboly, spokesman for the Education Ministry, said early childhood education is one of the focuses of the 2019-2023 national strategy.
“The ministry will issue a policy to increase the amount of children in state and private kindergartens,” Mr Kamboly said. “The ministry found that the number of small children going to school is increasing year-to-year.”
He said that small children should attend kindergarten until the age of five. By the age of six, children should enter first grade, he added.
“Kindergarten is their starting point for learning,” Mr Kamboly said. “They play, but what they play is educational.”
Additionally, Save the Children yesterday published its annual Global Childhood Report in anticipation for International Children’s Day on June 1.
The report examines data from 176 countries. Save the Children concluded that the percentage of out-of-school Cambodian children who should be in primary or secondary school is still high at 22.5 percent.