Nearly 40 percent of Cambodian women older than 25 have received little to no education, compared to 17.5 percent of their male counterparts, according to government statistics gathered in 2009 and released yesterday.
Although figures have improved since 2004, when 43.2 percent of women over 25 did not receive the equivalent of a primary school education, the numbers are still staggering, a leading women’s rights advocate said yesterday.
The National Institute of Statistics surveyed about 12,000 households across Cambodia in 2004 and 2009 and released the numbers during a seminar yesterday in Phnom Penh. Figures collected in the surveys show that both sexes are staying in school longer than they did five years ago but that the gap between males and females completing each level of schooling remains about the same.
Education Ministry officials declined to comment, saying they had not seen the report. However, SRP lawmaker and former Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua said yesterday that myriad reasons caused girls to leave school early or not to attend at all.
“Number one, it is social and cultural attitudes toward the education of girls,” she said. “We have to change these values. Parents need to understand that girls need to be educated as much as boys.”
Without the means to educate all of their children, many families send boys to school before girls, Ms Sochua said.
The statistics released yesterday showed that in 2009, 25.7 percent of men older than 25 had completed primary school compared to 15.4 percent of women. At the lower secondary school level, 12.4 percent of boys completed their studies compared to 6.5 percent of girls.
Other education statistics showed that in surveyed households with members younger than 25, just 10 percent of girls and 12 percent of boys were attending upper primary schools in 2009. That figure increased from 5.7 percent of girls and 7.1 percent of boys.
Low attendance at upper secondary schools can be attributed to parents’ inability to pay for their children’s attendance, said Sun Lei, an education program specialist with Unesco’s education unit. However, Ms Lei said universal free upper secondary education in Cambodia was unlikely to happen in the near future.
“That’s a little ambitious now,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)