When I reflect on the contents of this interview dating from May 2013, in which I highlighted the challenges facing Cambodia’s higher education system and the younger generations, four recent developments jumped into focus. The rest of the original article is still historically accurate!
1. Examination reform. The Cambodian Minister of Education, Youth and Sport has largely succeeded in reforming the final “grade 12” examination which is equivalent to the Irish leaving certificate. For many years, corruption and cheating were so rife at all levels even involving the education officials, that no one really believed that such a reform was possible. The Minister proved them wrong. However it was the positive reaction of the Cambodian population at large that enabled teachers and students to support the reform by accepting the large failure rate. The pass rate has since improved but the corruption and cheating have not returned. This one crucial reform has proved to all concerned that other reforms are now possible.
2. Curriculum reform. The Cambodia Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has established expert committees to continually revise and reform the curriculum for all classes from kindergarten to grade 12. The textbooks are improving with each revision with more emphasis on students’ active involvement and participation in the lessons.
3. Teacher Training reform. The Ministry has also developed plans to insist that all teachers have a Bachelor’s degree in education not just a two-year diploma. The plan is that High School teachers will eventually need Master’s degree. Salaries have improved. This means that teachers are being motivated to upgrade themselves.
4. The Xavier Jesuit School project. This was only a pipe dream in May 2013 and is now a fully-fledged institution in its own right based outside Sisophon town in the remote province of Banteay Meanchey. The Minister has asked us to help also the teacher training institutions so we cooperate with the Primary Teacher Training College in Banteay Meanchey and with the Pedagogical Institute of Battambang. Now I am back to teaching but this time at the University of Battambang and the other third level institutions of this town.
Read the interview here