Students May Monitor Textbook Delivery

Transparency International (T.I.) Cambodia and education NGOs on Friday held a conference titled “Promoting Integrity to Strengthen the Quality of Education in Cambodia,” where ideas were put forward on stamping out corruption in schools.

At the top of discussions were the recent revelations that district level education officials were stealing and selling textbooks intended to be delivered free to students, a problem that T.I. says could be fixed easily and cheaply.

“We need to mobilize the students themselves in tracking the delivery of the textbooks,” said Preap Kol, T.I. executive director.

Mr. Kol explained that in the Philippines, the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, a regional NGO which uncovered the textbook pilfering scam late last year, had implemented a system where students reported through an online platform on the quality of their education, from the delivery of textbooks to the cleanliness of bathrooms.

“We suggest a similar system to this. It really does not cost anything and as long as the ministry provides accurate information about how many textbooks are printed and where they are supposed to be delivered, the students could do the rest,” Mr. Kol said. “The government is under growing pressure to make sure that education is free of corruption and of a high quality, and this is a relatively simple first step.”

Newly appointed Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron has begun to implement a number of reforms, and has made the textbooks scandal a priority.

Cabinet chief Ros Salin said yesterday that mobilizing the students in the monitoring process was a good idea, but not one without its flaws. “This idea could certainly be used in the cities and for high school students,” Mr. Salin said. “But there are remote areas with no Internet access and also young students whose I.T. knowledge is very limited. There needs to be another channel for these students. That is what we are working on now.”

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