Savong’s School – Primary school classes are open

DSC_0819

Savong’s school now serves primary school-aged children, Grades 1 through 5]

Over the past 12 months in this blog I have called up statistics from the Ministry of education youth and sport (MOEYS) which highlights the pressing shortage of primary school resources for the burgeoning young population of the nation. Teacher to student ratios are unwieldy –  1 teacher for every 47 young children, nationally. The need is similar in our community of Bakong. Another issue is that the state system has a tendency to charge families for what ought to be a free service. In some respects this is understandable, given the low levels of government spending toward education: low by global standards. Other critics however refer to school fees fundamentally as a bribe.

Savong’s school has always operated on the basis of providing free education. For the past nine years the school has focused on teaching languages and computer skills to older students grade 6 through to great 12. This year the decision was made to open up the school to serve primary students as well.

It was a practical decision; the senior classes run in the later afternoon and buildings were sitting quiet for a good part of the day. So why not open to classes up to teach the local community of young children who don’t get taught at the regions primary school. Five teachers have been recruited – all females as it turns out – and enrolments of local students took place in September. The local community is always wary of new services, and they want to know that their children are going to receive a quality education. So our starting figures are modest, and we’re going to build from here.

A total of 39 students, 19 girls and 20 boys, have been enrolled at the school and with teacher to student ratio of one to every eight, we can expect some pretty good results!

  • Why not share the joy of participating in this project by helping sponsor the teachers? If you’d like to find out more, please email me duncan@kudos-dynamics
Advertisements

Cambodia: The growth in school enrolments since 1980

When the Khmer Rouge were ousted from power in 1979, Cambodia was a mess. The school system was of course just one of the victims of the regime, so in hindsight it has been remarkable that the number of children enrolled at school in Cambodia has risen to levels as good – or better – than those of the 1960s.

Two things drive these numbers. One is the number of children, which since 1990 has burgeoned. On the population pyramid below, we can see a dent in the numbers amongst those aged 35 to 39. That reflects the greatly diminished birthrate, as well is the greatly increased child mortality rate of the Pol Pot years. But since then Cambodia has experienced one of the highest birth rates in the world, peaking around 1990, but retaining high levels since then, though with a small decrease 10 to 15 years ago. (Source: http://www.indexmundi)

Image

Now let’s look at the school enrolments since 1980.  If anything, the growth of these school enrolments has been faster than the growth of population. The reason for this is the investment by both the government as well as by NGOs in the building of schools, and the removal of barriers to education, particularly in rural areas that were ill served previously. I won’t get into detailed figures here, but if I take the cohort who were born 15 years ago, a greater percentage of those have been attending school than their equivalents from the cohort five or 10 years older.

Don’t be alarmed by the downturn in the chart below. The recent decrease in primary school enrolments, is population driven, reflecting (as I mentioned above,) the recent decrease in birth rates 5 to 15 years ago. However numbers are expected to pick up again, judging by the figures in the population pyramid.

The chart below (based on MOEYS figures,) shows dramatically the overall rise in school enrolments since 1980, yet it shows just as dramatically the relatively skinny percentage of those enrolments that are occurring at upper secondary school level: grades nine through to 12.

Image

Cambodia faces challenges at each level of the education system.

Pre-School Right now, and not betrayed the figures above, is the challenge of introducing more preschoolers into the education system. The aim of this is to give these children a head start with reading, writing and social skills.

Primary School At the primary school level, as the chart above suggests, we appear to be at a moment of reprieve, whereby the available resources can be shared out amongst fewer children than previously experienced. However the primary schools sector is in the state of crisis at present because it is losing teaching staff rapidly. The reason for this is the historically poor levels of remuneration available for teaching staff. Many teachers are switching from primary to secondary schools in order to get more liveable wage.

Secondary School At the lower and upper secondary school level, there are several problems still. While teachers are highly regarded, and are on salaries that are comparatively generous – comparatively that is – there is still a shortage of trained teachers, and a terrible shortage of resources such as textbooks, science equipment and even such basics as whiteboard markers. By world standards the Cambodian government is a poor investor in its own education system. According to UNESCO figures, (2011)13.1% of government spending goes to education – skinny slice of the small pie.

From the perspective of Savong school in Bakong, Siem Reap, we can see how we have fitted in to the broad narrative of the post 1980 story. I think it is important for NGOs to keep evaluating their own role within the wider picture. Right now, Savong is examining the role of the school which works around the local secondary schools. They operate in the mornings, and so during those same mornings Savong’s School remains empty. The plan, due to be rolled out in October this year is to utilise the teaching and physical resource of the school in order to provide local rural students primary education services. This is quite apart from the language and computer teaching that his school already provides to senior students currently in grades 6 to 12.

For more facts and figures about the Cambodian education system:

 

In Cambodia a Primary Teacher to pupil ratio of 1 to 47

Image

One metric that helps illustrate how much attention a nation is giving to education is the teacher-to-student ratio. Recently South East Asia Globe magazine ran an article by Frédéric Janssens who had gathered the best available data on teacher ratios across SE Asia. This was for primary schools. Alas, Cambodian children fare not just worst, but worse by a wide margin even compared to near neighbours Myanmar and Laos.

This is a problem, and it is not helped by a shortage of primary teachers in part because they are paid very poorly. Many professional teachers have opted to teach in secondary schools instead. The problem is not just that primary schools get a skinnier slice of the education spend, but that the pie itself is woefully small even when expressed as a percentage of the Government’s overall spend.

While Singapore’s government invests almost one dollar in every four into education, the Cambodian government allocates just one dollar in every 8*, and that’s despite the burgeoning number of children in the school-age cohort.

Image

The figures date from 2010-2012.

For more on the subject of Cambodian primary teachers and their pay – click here.

Savong’s School plans to open Primary School classes in October 2014 and the plan is to limit classes to so students per teacher. For more about these plans click here.

For Cambodian education spending projections, 2014-2018, click here.

* These figures suggest 12.4% of Government spending. Comparative UNESCO figures suggest 13.5% of Cambodia’s GDP.

Savong School Scholarships

I put this together in 2010 when we first launched the Scholarship scheme. It has been a great success with the first students now entering the final year of study – and still enthusiastic. “I still cannot believe I have this opportunity,” one told me.

If you’d like to support a student click here for more details. Or contact me: duncan@kudos-dynamics.com

Laptop Ceremony planned for Scholarship Students

CAMBODIA MAY 09 - LADDER

Today I spoke to Savong and activated a transfer of funds to the school account in Cambodia so that the laptop computers, required of the 9 new scholarship students now they are at university, can be purchased.

Savong was very excited and plans a ceremony to celebrate the laptops, so that the students – and their parents – are duly honoured.  And that honour also goes, of course, to the donor who made the gift possible.

We will post photos as soon as ceremony takes place: we think within a week.