More than a dozen NGOs from the education sector are calling for the government to set aside a greater slice of the national budget — at least 20 percent — to spend on education in the coming years.
Chin Chanveasna, executive director of the NGO Education Partnership, said the campaign is aimed at improving access to education and funneling funds into underserved areas.
“We need to start to invest in education in order to generate economic growth in the future,” Mr. Chanveasna said. “When people are educated, they tend to earn money more than uneducated people.”
Education currently receives 18.3 percent of the national budget, or about $600 million, according to Ros Salin, spokesman for the Education Ministry.
The NGOs’ request for 20 percent of the national budget is not arbitrary; the benchmark would bring Cambodia up to global standards for education funding, Mr. Chanveasna added.
The NGOs’ campaign was announced Monday at a news conference for Global Action Week for Education, with smaller events to be held this week in five additional provinces.
Mr. Chanveasna said the organizations would like to see the government invest more money into providing equal access to schools, especially in the provinces.
Homeless children, children living in rural poverty, children with disabilities and children from ethnic minorities do not receive the same educational opportunities as those living in cities, he said.
Education Ministry Mr. Salin said that the government has consistently raised funding for education as the ministry attempts to reform education quality, enrollment and teacher training and salaries.
“In general, the budget in the sector of education and youth has been increasing every year, because education sector is the government’s priority sector, a crucial social sector,” he said.
Mr. Salin did not specify if the ministry will try to increase the educational budget for 2018.
While he applauded the ministry’s investments in the quality of education in recent years, Put Sopheak, an advisor for the NGO Save the Children Cambodia, said rural schools in the provinces are desperate for the same funding as their urban counterparts receive.
“Education is increasingly being prioritized by families around the country, and that should be reflected in local budgets,” he said.