FEATURE STORY September 12, 2019

New Ways Of Teaching and Learning Improve the Quality of Education in Cambodia

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • For Hun Sen Taing Kok High School, the approximately 70% of students who passed primary school needed to strengthen their reading skills in order to be ready for grade 7.
  • In the first test in December 2018, more than 65%, or 82 out of 121 students, failed the exam.
  • By the second semester, only less than 10%, or 12 students, failed. Students receiving grades A, B, and C increased from 1 to 62 students.

Nang Rith Kanha, a 9th grade student at Hun Sen Taing Kok High School in Kampong Thom province, confessed that she cheated during the entrance exam that got her into the advanced class. Then she failed her class exams a month later. She was filled with regret.

“I was lazy to study because I thought that my friends would allow me to copy their test again,” Rith Kanha recalled. She failed her first exam because it was strictly monitored by the teachers and parents. “Then, I realized that I had only passed the previous exam because of someone else’s knowledge, not my own. I felt so ashamed.”  

The strictly monitored exams and her own reflection gave Rith Kanha a chance to change. Since failing her first exam, she put more effort into her studies. As a result, she passed all her other exams during the year, including earning a top score on her recent final exam.

Improving lower secondary education to meet minimum standards is a goal of the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP), which is supported by the World Bank. The aims to strengthen school management, improve teaching and learning at classroom level by upgrading teacher qualifications, providing mentoring, conducting proper and supportive teacher evaluation, and improving learning facilities.

The project provides the School Improvement Fund at the Provincial and District Office of Education to strengthen school-based management. It also supports lower secondary school teachers to upgrade their qualifications, especially in the areas of mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, Khmer, and history. One hundred existing schools are being improved by constructing or renovating school infrastructure and supporting schools and teachers to provide the right conditions for effective teaching and learning while 30 new schools will be constructed.

Under SEIP, the traditional ways of teaching and learning in the Cambodian school system have been modified. Students are assigned to discuss topics in groups and present their results to the class. By providing ideas or guidance and letting students do their own work in groups, teachers spend less time writing on whiteboards. Parents are invited to monitor all types of exams to ensure everyone does their own work and to participate in the development of school plans and monitoring their implementation.


"When we assign a topic to be discussed, they find real tools to practice. "
Sreng Ang
physics teacher, Hun Sen Taing Kok High School


Sreng Ang, a physics teacher who teaches grades 7 and 9 at Hun Sen Taing Kok High School, admires the new way of teaching and learning and observes that students learn faster, are more engaged in their study, and find creative ways to present their discussions.

“When we assign a topic to be discussed, they find real tools to practice,” he said referring his subject, physics.

Khmer Literature teacher Suy Tevy echoed Sreng Ang on the positive changes. She added that students now read more text books, do more research, create more learning activities, and help each other.

“I am happy to see this change. Students’ knowledge is improving,” she said.   

Nong Sovannarith, 48, the father of a student studying at Hun Sen Taing Kok School, says that the improved connection between teachers and parents makes parents feel confident about the quality of the school, and will also help them to know the level of their children’s study, how regularly their children attend class, and how they can support their children at home.  

Ieng Bunhan, Principal of Hun Sen Taing Kok High School, recalled that pre-tests of students who passed from primary to secondary school revealed that approximately 70% needed to strengthen their reading skills in order to be ready for grade 7.

The results of the pre-test for grade 9 were the same. He said that in first test for the month of December 2018, more than 65%, or 82 out of 121 students, failed the exam. Only one student got a grade C and none earned A or B. Now, the pass rate has significantly improved. By the second semester, only less than 10%, or 12 students, failed. Students receiving grades A, B, and C increased from 1 to 62 students.    

“We have been asleep for a long time,” he said referring to the traditional ways of teaching and learning that were not effective.

Given these initial results, he wants all his teachers attend the Teacher Upgrading Program (TUP) at Royal University of Phnom Penh. So far, 12 out of 63 teachers in his high school have attended this training.  

Although the project is still in its first year, it shows promising initial results:

  • The project has benefited more than 19,500 educational staff members, teachers and students;
  • Over 17,000 students are enrolled in 350 newly constructed classrooms;
  • 100 targeted secondary schools have developed School Improvement Plans with support from national core trainers;
  • The first cohort of teacher trainees (almost 200 teachers) in the Teacher Upgrading Program will graduate by the end of December 2019; and
  • School construction has been mostly on track with active participation from communities.

For Nang Rith Kanha, the new style of teaching and learning at her school makes her feel proud. She feels like a different person, and now can help poor performing students in her school.



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