A new project aims to redress the imbalance between the numbers of girls and boys continuing their studies at secondary level, and will also provide assistance to ethnic minority families too poor to send their children to school. The Asian Development Bank has approved a grant of $3 million to implement the plan, which will be supplemented by $500,000 in contributions from NGOs and the Ministry of Education.
“There’s a big disparity between girls and boys in terms of education, thus this program,” said Paul Chang, the ABD officer in charge of the project. “The idea is to encourage girls to go to, and stay at, school.”
Rates of enrollment in schools have increased in recent years, particularly at primary level, where numbers are estimated at around 84 percent for boys and 82 percent for girls. At secondary level, however, the figures fall dramatically, with just 17 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls finishing ninth grade.
Children in hill-tribe communities are also getting inadequate schooling, according to Chang. “Compared to the rest of the population, children living in hard-to-reach areas are also at a disadvantage.” Linguistic differences, remote villages and poverty are the main obstacles to education for these children.
Assistance will focus around supplementing the income children would bring home to their families if they did not attend school. It will also provide funding for school-related costs such as uniforms, textbooks and tuition fees.
The education plan hopes to help 13,500 school-age girls and 1,500 ethnic minority children of both sexes.
Chorn Chheangly, deputy director of the Primary and Pre-school Department at the Ministry of Education, said the new scheme fits in with a much broader goal. “We aim to ensure all poor children, especially girls, have education with equity and quality by 2015.”
The grant will also finance a public-awareness project about the social and cultural inequalities facing girls and indigenous children.