Some foreign-language schools in Phnom Penh are ignoring government requirements to teach Cambodian history and language, an official leading an effort to inspect the schools says.
“Some Chinese-language schools have not used our history to teach the students, as instructed. Instead they used their [Chinese] history,” said Municipal Education Department Deputy Director Chea Cheath. “[Cambodian] history promotes the spirit of national consciousness.”
An inspection of 42 schools that teach in English, Vietnamese and Chinese is scheduled to be completed early next month. The inspectors are also checking sanitation standards, administrative practices and even classroom decorations, Chea Cheath said.
“We will inform them of mistakes and ask them to correct them. If, after a warning, they do not take action, we will close them down,” Chea Cheath said.
There are about 70 Chinese schools in Cambodia, more than a dozen in Phnom Penh, said Ly Kan, administrative chief for the Khmer-Chinese Association in Cambodia. Chinese curriculums are translated into Khmer and sent to the Ministry of Education for approval, he said.
Primary school students learn Cambodian history and junior high students learn world history.
The Municipal Education Department requires foreign language schools to teach Khmer language for five hours a week and Cambodian history for one hour a week.
Some Chinese school administrators and community leaders say it has become difficult to find qualified Chinese language translators and teachers.
Officials at one Phnom Penh primary school said they were even considering dropping history classes altogether. They said they could not find a translator to competently translate a Khmer-language Cambodian history textbook.
Many Chinese- language teachers are reaching an advanced age, and have not received teaching certificates, Ly Kan said.
“We are now training more students to be teachers,” he said. More than 100 students have been trained in recent years, Ly Kan said.
Ly Kan said it would be a mistake for any Chinese-language school to eliminate history.
“It is up to them because they are independently financed,” he said. “But there will be a reaction from students’ parents, and the school will lose students.”