Cambodian Students Association in Japan

(CSAJ)

Essay Competition 2010
Topic 2: “What Are the Main Problems in Cambodian Education System? What should we do to solve those problems?”

o o o o o o

Name: School: Age: Tel: E-mail: Address:

KIEN FORCEFIDELE Russei Keo High School 17 097 97 06 11 9 forcefidele@gmail.com №735, National Road 5, Mittapheap Village, Russei Keo, Phnom Penh

Summary
When we talk about the development of a country, we are also talking about human resources, and what brings human resources to its fullest potential is inevitably education. Therefore, Education System is considered to be the vessel of human resources, and in turn the prosperity of a country. However, during the Pol Pot regime from 1975 to 1979 Cambodian education system was largely destroyed. Schools were abandoned, and teachers and scholars were killed mercilessly. Education could only be found hidden secretly throughout the pagodas with no official form. After waking up from this tragedy, Cambodia still has major problems tampering the education system, including corruption, poverty and mismanagement. Corruption happens frequently and uncontrollably in every school either in urban or rural areas, and the unsolved shortage of schools, school materials and proficient teachers contributes even more to the declining education system in Cambodia, making it fall even further from international education systems. In order to get our education system back on track, certain problems need to be solved such as tackling the corruption problem and renovating the management in education system so as to meet the international standard. And most importantly, we need to bring all those plans into practice. This is not easy, and it will take time. However, if the government and citizens are together as one, it will not only boost the improvement of education system but also the development of Cambodia as a whole.

Cambodian Education System
In nowadays’ civilized society, human resources are inevitably needed for the development of a country. What’s more, these human resources are not just any human resources. They must be well trained both mentally and skillfully. The process that is used to harness these people, making them the next golden generations, is called Education System. However, the education system varies from one country to another, and the difference is even wider between developed countries and the developing ones. Developed countries have advanced and worldwide acknowledged education systems which produce human resources to the highest possible level, whereas developing countries are still struggling to create proper education systems for their generations who are going to be next leaders of the countries. Cambodia, a developing country and one of the poorest, notably has lots of issues with its education system. What are those major problems? What’s more, are there any possible methods to tackle those problems?  Poverty & Financial Problems As a country still recovering from continuous wars that destroyed almost everything, there is still a long way before it can become a fully developed country. Consequently, many issues are expected, and the most important of all is corruption. This is not just a small problem that happens only in some minor parts of the government or at a few places; the corruption in Cambodia is happening everywhere, from the top elites to the small kids who have just enrolled for a few years in primary school. In fact, corruption occurs so frequently that it almost becomes a culture trend for Khmer people, imprinting a deep impression in their brains and to the later generations as well. Apart from being a country full of corruption, Cambodia is also a very poor country. According to the statistic, 80% of the population live on less than US$2 a day, and a teacher’s average salary is only US$30 per month, and not all of Cambodian teachers live on their own; most of them have families to support, kids to feed, and the monthly bills of electricity and water to pay, and with the inflation happening frequently in the country, being a teacher is not adequate. Therefore, most of them have to find jobs elsewhere such as making their own businesses, opening extra-time classes and so on. While extra-time classes are only promising for science and Khmer literature teachers, teachers who teach social subjects are not very likely to have a chance. Consequently, in class, they have to directly violate the rule and sell papers, either lesson papers or test papers, to their students. In fact, they can disobey the law openly and easily that the law seems to be only for show; in other words, it’s called, ‘Enacted law without implementation’. They say education is free for everyone, but is it true?

Worse than that, they would even go as far as taking bribes during examinations as if the law does not have any effects and the real law is made up of what people are doing nowadays. When asked about their consciences of being educated people and who hold the responsibility for nurturing the young minds of the next generations, the most thoughtful of them would say that their consciences are not dead. However, the current that flows these days does not yearn for value of knowledge and hard work. ‘It is easy to go with the flow, but the other way around isn’t.’ If there are laws in the constitution but they are ignored in practice, how can there be any change? Furthermore, even a matter such as producing textbooks for students to learn is still an unsolved and neglected problem. As we can see, textbooks issued by the Ministry of Education are never adequate for every student. It is clearly stated that the textbooks are banned by the government of any sales and republishing and are freely provided to every student. Yet, those textbooks can be seen on sale in every bookstore in the country, and yet students who are trying to get better education do not have even a textbook to read. Nowadays, a textbook is shared by two students or even more in a class, and some have to study without textbooks for a whole year or even more. Also, the textbooks can’t be updated regularly to the recognized standard, so the lessons are old and all Cambodian students have to learn these outdated lessons. That’s why graduated students from high school are not internationally acknowledged, and that is why our human resources fall far behind those in the powerful countries. Besides, it is worth noticing that, in all public schools, there aren’t any science laboratories or places for students to put their knowledge into practice yet. This is also because of the poor economy of the country accompanied by limitless corruption, so the government cannot afford these facilities. As a result, students only learn theories but they cannot know how to implement those theories in real life, and soon they would start questioning, ‘What is the use of learning all these things?’ An old proverb proclaims, ‘Theory without practice is meaningless, but practice without theory is blind.’ Therefore, students need both theory and practice, but we lack substantially in these two since the education programs are not up-to-date and the practice is zero. Consequently, the human resources in Cambodia can never match those of the international countries.  Mismanagement Due to corruption being enabled in every sectors of the society, students are so familiar with it that school does not seem like a place where their mind and knowledge are enforced anymore. It is only a place where someone gets through from one year to another until the end of the final year and gets a bought certificate, and then they are out hoping to find jobs and do businesses. Sure there are many students graduating from universities each year, but the qualities of those students are still very doubtful. Truthfully, not all graduates

are capable of the doing the job their certificates claim they are. On the other hand, if the Ministry of Education intensifies the management over graduation examinations, many students will fail due to the lack of effort in studying and the common belief that they can pass the tests easily, including copying or bribing, without breaking a sweat. Therefore, the Ministry has to decrease the average passing scores so as to balance between the failing and the passing rate of students. If they do not do this, the unemployment rate in the country will certainly increase remarkably because it is almost certain that those students who fail will not likely willing to restart another year. The National Education Congress Summary Report estimates that 14.4% of the students dropped out from upper secondary school during the academic year 2008-09. Additionally, nowadays there is a striking shortage of teachers and schools in the country. According to the National Education Congress Summary Report Academic Year 2008-09, there are only 315 high schools in the country, and by 2010 there are only 1,302,512 people enrolled in lower secondary schools. Each class is overloaded with students ranging from 50 to 60 in a class. Thus, the atmosphere of the class is already disturbed and students will not be able to learn properly nor absorb the concepts of each lesson fully. Besides, teachers are not regularly trained or informed of new developments in their fields of teaching, creating an imbalance between teachers of the same fields, and since their living standards are more worrying problems, teachers do not have time to care if their students cannot learn new lessons which aren’t written in the textbooks. It seems as if their job is to teach what is written in the textbooks and, at the end of each month, get their pay to compensate the cost of their living. Now that we have pointed out the main problems, what can we do to tackle these and improve Cambodian Education System?  Solution On my point of view, the first step in order to renovate our Education System is to solve the corruption problem which is still evolving in our nation. However, we cannot solve this problem in one go. Thus, focusing solely on the Education System should be our main objective. Saying so, the minister of Education should strengthen the management over the education system and see to it that every plan is carried out successfully in all education sectors. Also, the government should participate in this process by eliminating the corruption of the elites as much as possible. Moreover, the government should give more attention the renovation of the education system and find methods to increase the salary for teachers so that they will have enough income to support their living standards. In turn, they can fully focus on educating and fostering the young generations with a free and uncorrupted mind. Plus, there won’t be any more need to sell papers and grades to students, so we can ensure our slogan of education, ‘Education is free for everyone’; also, the only way for students to

pass is through their hard work, so the value of our human resources will advance to another level. Furthermore, the government or the Ministry of Education should arrange a training session for teachers to research, share ideas and discuss about new updates on each subject such as Geography, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, etc. in order to catch up with the ongoing development of the education systems in other countries. Also, the textbooks should be updated yearly as well so that students can get access to new events and ideas as well as other students in the developed countries. In addition, it is very necessary that students can practice the lessons they learn in order that they can be experienced enough to use them at work. Hence, the government or Ministry of Education should find aid from NGOs and other donors for the purpose of installing necessary facilities for students to do their research so that they can prove the theories they learn. As a result, they will know not only ‘what it is’ but also ‘why and how it is so’. And last but not least, the Government of Cambodia should build more schools so that students do not have to cramp together to study in a class of fifty or sixty, and should also provide enough school supplies such as textbooks and teaching materials which are necessary as well. On the conclusion, Cambodian Education System has everything planned. The only left to do is putting this plan into action and get results. That’s why it is very necessary for the government to act as soon as possible for the sake of Cambodian human resources. These problems are not easy to be solved, but if we are determined and work together, the success will appear sooner or later. And if these problems can be solved successfully in the near possible future, the human resources in our country will be recognized worldwide and Cambodia will not be treated as a minor country any longer. We have to make our nation proud, together!

Reference
National Education Congress Summary Report (Academic Year 2008-09)
http://www.moeys.gov.kh/DownLoads/Publications/National%20Education%20Congress%2 0Summary%20Report.pdf

The Cambodian Independent Teachers Association Leaflet
http://www.oneworldaction.org/Resources/One%20World%20Action/Documents/Democratic %20Governance/CITA%20leaflet_retitled.pdf

Education for All National Plan 2003-2015
http://www.moeys.gov.kh/Includes/Contents/Education/EducationAll/Education%20for%20A ll%20National%20Plan%202003-2015.pdf

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