To market, to market…the black market in highschool textbooks

The difficulty of distributing textbooks in Cambodia was highlighted recently by an audit of high school textbooks, in science and chemistry for example – which found many school books ending up in the marketplaces. This caused acute embarrassment for the Minister of Education who felt obliged to explain the situation to the Asian Development Bank which had underwritten the purchase of thousands of these textbooks for use by schools which have been – and still are – chronically short of texts in high school subjects.

We might speculate how the books had ended up being sold in the markets. Had teachers started trading books to supplement their incomes? Were students borrowing the books and selling them on for a quick dollar?

Whatever the stories, the Ministry has evidently clamped down on the black market in textbooks – as explained in the Minister;s letter which I republish in full.

HE Eric Sidgwick
Country Director
Cambodia Resident Mission
Asian Development Bank
29 Suramarit Blvd. (St. 268), Phnom Penh

September 2014

Subject: Management and Use of Textbooks.

Dear Excellency Sidgwick:

I am writing to brief you of actions and progress on the issues of textbooks. The Ministry established a joint working group with the Ministry of Interior (attached). The working group conducted investigation of sales of textbooks marked with State property “Not For Sale” in the provinces of Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, and Phnom Penh. The findings confirmed that there were indeed textbooks marked with State property “Not
For Sale” printed in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 of almost all subjects and levels being sold at markets and/or book stores.
To address the issue, MoEYS has taken and plans to take the following actions:

1. All Provincial Offices of Education have met with district offices of education, school principals, and teachers to disseminate the Instruction No. 29 dated 12 May 2014 on Management and Use of Textbooks. In all meetings, all education staff concerned were requested to manage textbooks properly to ensure that they would not leak to the market.

2. The Battambang Provincial Office of Education has collected about 900 textbooks marked with State property “Not For Sale” from the market and book stores in the province. The textbooks will be distributed to students in the coming academic year 2014-2015.

3. MoEYS cooperates with the Ministry of Interior and the Phnom Penh prosecutor to deal with the issue. We were informed that Phnom Penh court will issue shortly a warrant authorizing the seizure and confiscation of textbooks marked with State property “Not For Sale” in Phnom Penh. Following the issuance of the warrant, actions will be taken in close collaboration with law enforcement agencies to confiscate textbooks marked with State property “Not For Sale” being sold in Phnom Penh.

4. Seizure and confiscation will be carried out in provinces across the country in close collaboration with sub-national law enforcement agencies.

5. Strengthening the implementation of the Instruction No. 29 dated 12 May 2014 on Management and Use of Textbooks.

We look forward to collaborating with ADB to address the issue of textbook use.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Hang Chuon Naron
Archive / documentation

Cambodia is starting to address tertiary education quality


I recall talking to a teacher about his tertiary studies at a local Siem Reap university and he explained how hard it was to understand his lecturers – most of whom were Filipinos who spoke in a very hard to understand accent: hard enough for a westerner to understand but nigh on impossible for young Cambodian students who already found English a struggle. The picture didn’t conjure up the sense that this education would be a quality experience. Elsewhere I’ve seen textbooks set by lecturers that are completely inappropriate for the material covered in the course. What are they thinking?

The Ministry of Education Youth & Sport has obviously been wondering the same thing, and has been implementing a project designed to evaluate, monitor and lift the standards, (the HEQCIP for those who collect acronyms.)

Below is the Ministry’s own statement on the matter. This year the tertiary sector has been under real pressure because the intake of Grade 12 graduates from the high school system effectively halved thanks to a clamp-down on cheating (by students and complicit teachers,) so that the burgeoning flow of new students slowed dramatically – cutting the cashflow of the largely private university sector and creating a climate in which more, rather than less, corners are being cut.

Higher Education Quality and Capacity Improvement Project (HEQCIP)

The higher education system in Cambodia has changed greatly over the past 10 years as the number of private universities has grown considerably. On the one hand, this development has expanded the opportunities for a large pool of students to further their education; on the other hand, it has highlighted the significant and complex challenges faced by the overall system of higher education and individual universities, both public and private, during this period of rapid growth. While the establishment in 2003 of the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC) introduced much-needed elements of quality assurance into the system, the management of higher education in the country remains difficult and needs to be clarified and strengthened across several key dimensions, including the strengthening of institutional and organizational capacity. It is most urgent, however, to improve human capacity in the sub-sector in order to cope with the rapid expansion of the last decade and to anticipate what will be required to manage it in the years ahead.

The current higher education system is growing rapidly but is small by regional standards and there are genuine concerns about the quality, access, efficiency, and managerial effectiveness in HEIs. To assist in supporting these key areas, the World Bank, in agreement with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, has provided in the amount US$ 23 million (50% grant and 50% credit) to fund the 5 year Higher Education Quality and Capacity Improvement Project (HEQCIP) 2011-2015

Project Objective

The development objective of this project is to improve: a) the quality of teaching, management, and research in project-supported entities and b) pilot the targeting of disadvantaged students for enhanced access and retention.

Project Components

The MoEYS, in cooperation with the ACC and the other ministries responsible for HE, will provide guidance and funding support to HEIs in implementing the supporting components of the project as follows:

Component 1: Strengthening the Governance and Capacity of the Higher Education System will improve the overall development and management of the higher education sub-sector by focusing on staff development at the Department of Higher Education (DHE), Department of Scientific Research (DSR) and the ACC, thereby improving their capacity to offer practical guidance and support to higher education institutions. It is also designed to strengthen the capacity of individual HEIs.

Component 2: Provision of Competitive Development and Innovation Grants will (a)- strengthen the capacity of participating HEIs and provide the enabling conditions for improved quality in research, teaching and management; and (b) introduce an efficient and sustainable mechanism, which emphasizes innovation and accountability, in the DHE for the allocation of public funds for research to eligible public and private HEIs.

Component 3: Provision of Scholarships to Disadvantaged Students will increase the retention of poor students in HE through the provision of 1,050 “special-priority” scholarships, based on pro-poor targeting and educational criteria.

Component 4: Project Management and Monitoring and Evaluation will support management efforts to coordinate project activities and also assist MoEYS, DHE, ACC, and HEIs to systematically collect, collate, analyze, and report on the human and information resources needed to further develop the HE sub-sector.