Where does Cambodia rank in terms of higher education?


Measurements of education are difficult because one nation’s standards may be different from those of other nations, and the population  structure may be quite different also. However one metric applied by the UN is “enrollment in tertiary education” and this takes the percentage of people of tertiary education age (18 – 24 say) who are actually enrolled in tertiary education.

By these standards Cambodia ranks 116th out of 148 nations measured by UNESCO (2011) and reported by the World Economic Forum – a few positions lower than neighbouring Laos.

Earlier UNESCO figures (2005) estimated that around 2.8% of tertiary aged Cambodians are enrolled in tertiary education. (In the USA the figure is 72%.)

This situation is changing, and I think quite rapidly since 2005, but Cambodia has some catching up to do. When asked to evaluate the problems hindering economic development, the World Economic Forum respondents rated the “inadequately educated workforce” as the third greatest problem after corruption and inefficient Government bureaucracy.

A deeper problem is the urban-rural split, with university being more accessible for comparatively rich urban families, and out of reach for the rural poor. This issue has the potential to create a harsh class division in Cambodia, on top of the nation’s other social challenges. It is a key reason why at Savong’s School we established a full scholarship for the top students – and this provides for university enrollment (over a 4 year degree) as well as transport, a laptop and a living allowance over the 4 years.

More about the university scholarship – click here.

You are just a step away from this amazing young woman.


This young Cambodian woman focuses on what she can achieve – and her goal is to earn a university degree.

In my country, New Zealand, the Government has just been handed a damning report on child poverty and the document makes disappointing reading for a nation that once, literally, led the world in child care and education standards. So hardship has been part of the public conversation recently – though notably, the topic is absent from the various Ministers responsible for child care. They walk a narrow road and appear happy to step over those in need.

But in the midst of this context, this public debate about poverty Savong emailed me with a photo of a young woman who resides not far from the school her runs in Bakong, Cambodia. “Brother,” he asked. “Can we support her with a university scholarship. She wants to study for a degree.”

At first when I looked at the photo my reaction was – wow, she already has a laptop – but it was only then that I noticed she was tapping the keypad with her feet, and that she lacks hands and arms: through a birth defect. What unimaginable hardship. Every sentence is a labour of love for her.

Savong’s request also came in the context of some recent discussions we’ve had about the goals and objectives of his school and scholarship programme. These remain: to help poor rural students to reach their potential and to help them achieve positive, fulfilling employment.

Yes, we are also trying to run the school and the scholarships to a tight budget (and we know we cannot serve every needy person in Cambodia,) but now you have met this young woman, and when you hear her desire to attend university and to complete a degree: when you hear that, and you examine your organisation’s objectives – how can you just walk away?

Tomorrow Savong is interviewing her in-depth to work out her needs and her details. She is from a poor family and somewhere along the line has found a supporter who gave her the laptop. But in principle the decision has already been made. There is just no way we can morally walk away from her.

This is the new paradigm of charitable work in the internet age. Years ago we used to be told of “the starving millions” and at school we felt remote from this sea of needy humanity. But today the needs, and the personalities of those who need help are a mouse-click away.

The other consequence of our highly connected world, where you are now just two degrees away from this young woman, is that she is now part of your life. I don’t in any way mean to objectify her, or to lay a guilt trip on you – far from it. But the road we travel individually is now the internet highway. We meet more people experiencing the extremes of life. Do we merely step over them?

I’m hoping you can stop a moment and consider helping her achieve her mighty goal.  Contact me and we can put you more closely in touch so that your can personally sponsor her progress.  duncan@kudos-dynamics.com

You can make an immediate PayPal donation if you like. CLICK HERE.

For moe about how out scholarship scheme works: CLICK HERE.

The search is on for a student sponsor. $20 a week to put a student through University.


With October rolling around schools in Cambodia wrap-up the academic year with exams prior to the annual Pchum Ben holiday which marks a time of thanksgiving to one’s ancestors, and also the change of seasons. This time of year produces trepidation for local students as well: it is exam time.

For the past three years we have awarded the top Grade 12 students at Savong’s School a full scholarship to University in town, 14 kms away. The scholarship is well designed to respect the real needs and realities facing university students from the rural community.

They normally face four significant barriers to taking part in university courses.

  1. The barrier of money. Enrolment fees (around $450 per annum over 4 years,) are actually higher than some families manager to earn over 12 months. By providing fees and a required laptop, we overcome the primary hurdles.
  2. Transport into town each day. Fuel and transport are relatively costly in Cambodia and so we provide the scholarship students from Bakong a daily ride into University and home again. For some families this frees up the family 50cc motorbike so it can be used for other duties.
  3. Living allowance. Enrolment fees alone don’t adequately support a university student throughout the year, and so we pay a modest $45-50 per month to help cover living expenses and to ensure the student isn’t draining resources from their family. By being self-sufficient they are under much less pressure at home in terms of ‘pulling their weight.’
  4. Structure and support. Cambodian students are highly motivated, but homes are not well designed for the needs of a student who needs access to wifi, and space to quietly study. Our scholarships ensure that the students have access to the school facilities – study space – as well as the support of their peers and predecessors. The Bakong scholarship students get on well and support each other.

University studies take place in the mornings in Siem Reap, and in the afternoons the students travel back to Savong’s School where they undertake duties including some teaching. Their presence provides an element of mentorship for the younger students.  Also their progress is tracked, and we we keep an eye out for any health issues (for example one student needed glasses which we paid for.)

Now here’s where you can assist. Averaged out over a four year period (the minimum under the Cambodian degree system) the scholarship adds up, in western terms, to that classic measure: one take-out coffee per day or $US 20 per week.

We are looking for 5 additional sponsors to help support the latest scholarship winners whose names will be announced shortly. This is a tremendous opportunity to give effectively and to ensure that your gift really does get results. Armed with a degree, these students will be able to transform the lives of their families. Your gift has a real multiplier effect.

You’d like to find out more. Contact me: duncan@kudos-dynamics.com