UN Notes Progress, Problems in Schools

Education in Cambodia is improving, with the number of children enrolled in primary school up, the number of dropouts down and the gender gap shrinking. But the country still places among the lowest in the world, according to the results of a global education index released yesterday.

Among 129 countries, Cambodia was ranked 104 on Unesco’s Education Development Index–which calculates a ratio between a low of 0 and a high score of 1 based on factors such as adult literacy, primary school enrolment, gender disparities and quality of education.

The ranking is the same as last year’s, and regionally puts Cambodia above only Laos, but Cambodia’s ratio score itself did rise by 0.4 to 0.781.

The findings are mixed. The report singles out a Cambodian scholarship scheme to provide conditional grants to the families of poor students, particularly females and minorities, as having a marked impact on enrolment.

“Cambodia demonstrated that financial incentives could both raise the demand for primary schooling and increase the likelihood of girls entering lower secondary school,” noted the study.

But if Cambodia is improving, it is doing so from a bleak baseline. For every 100 students that enter primary school, 60 leave before graduating. And while the global maximum for student-to-teacher ratio is set at 40 students to a teacher, Cambodia’s is 55 to one.

“The government is trying its best to improve” the ratio, said Ministry of Education secretary of state, Mak Vann, who admitted there were a number of obstacles facing education. “Teacher training is one of the things we need to improve in order to raise the quality of education.”

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teacher Association, said yesterday that he was not surprised by the findings and fingered poor pay as the root of the problem

“The government must increase the number of teachers in the countryside and their salary, so they don’t have to take on two jobs. If they have two jobs, it affects the quality of education,” he said. “If we have a poor education system, the country can’t develop.”

  (Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)



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