In a country racked by an alarming rate of suicide, the primary path for Cambodian psychology majors to help schoolchildren cope with mental health issues has been cut off after the government ceased recruiting them for its teacher-trainer program.
When the new academic year begins next month, the National Institute of Education (NIE) will not be conducting its one-year graduate program for psychology majors, which in years past has prepared graduates to train Cambodia’s secondary school teachers.
“Unluckily for the majors in psychology this year, we do not have it,” Mao Saroeun, an NIE spokesman, said on Friday. “The Ministry of Education thinks we have a sufficient number of psychology teachers.”
The NIE course is the only available avenue for graduates to become certified to teach psychology at regional teacher training schools. The training helps teachers learn how to motivate and empathize with their students.
Chhaing Maraen, a third-year psychology student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), had intended to enroll in the NIE program after graduating next year. Her father, a teacher, credited his psychology teacher at a regional training center for teaching him how to motivate his students, the 20-year-old said.
“If we train the teachers, the results will have a larger impact,” Ms. Maraen said at a Youth Mental Health Day event that RUPP’s psychology department organized earlier this month.
The annual event began in 2013 after the university completed a mental health survey that found a staggering rate of suicide in Cambodia—about 42 per 100,000 residents, among the highest in the world.
In 2014, the government hired 30 psychology graduates to be high school counselors, said Bernhild Pfautsch, an adviser in the psychology department at RUPP, but the initiative has not been repeated.
Likewise, there was no indication the teacher training program would resume after this year’s hiatus, Mr. Saroeun said.
Education Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.