The Council of Ministers last week approved a long-anticipated policy that will regulate the country’s nonformal education system.
The policy aims to improve teacher training, encourage drop-outs to return to school and spread nonformal education to community learning centers and pagodas, where monks could help villagers learn to read.
In The, director of the Non-Formal Education Department at the Ministry of Education, said he was happy to see that the policy he has worked on for years finally passed. He said the government will rely on the nonformal education system as “one of the most important educational mechanisms to reduce poverty.”
Cambodia has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with 4 million adults unable to read. Seventy percent of those adults are women.
“Previously, the informal education system had been marginalized far behind the formal education,” In The said. “[The government] focused more on long-term education in school.”
According to a news release issued by the Council of Ministers, the government now considers the nonformal education system as “official and equal to formal education.” It added that the program should target poor and remote parts of the country, areas that oftentimes were held by the Khmer Rouge. Thirteen learning centers have already opened, and 10 more await funding.
In The said that under the new policy, the government has agreed to give the Non-Formal Education Department its own budget instead of only a percentage of the money allocated to the Ministry of Education. “This budget will better facilitate the work of our program,” he said.
In The said the budget will be $500,000 this year. The program is scheduled to begin this month.
One of the program’s priorities will be the re-entry program, which will encourage dropouts to return to the classroom. In The said the annual drop-out rate is now more than 10 percent.
In The said the European Union is considering helping to fund his department’s mission of getting dropouts back into school and educating children who have never been to school.
“When we have a clear policy like this, the international community will help us reduce poverty,” he said.
Cambodia will celebrate National and World Literacy Day on Sept 8. Officials are planning a large march to celebrate the non-formal education system.