In 2011-2012, Cambodia has 11,370 schools throughout the country: 281 are Kindergartens, 6,910 are primary schools, 1,214 lower secondary schools and 433 higher secondary schools; according to Mr. Im Sethy, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (KT, 24.03.13). He stressed that out of this number 3,518 buildings (or 18,256 classrooms) were sponsored by the Prime Minister and his wife. Provided that one concrete building of five classrooms would cost at least U$ 20,000 to build the total money spent by the PM and his wife is about U$ 70,360,000. Cambodia is lucky since we have a rich PM, provided that he would earn an official salary of slightly over U$ 1,000 per month.
In addition, there are 101 higher education institutions, of which 39 are state owned and 62 are private entities in 19 provinces and municipality. Number of students pursuing degree from BA to PhD reaches 255,791 persons, of whom 38% are female. Around 4,000 scholarship students have been sent mainly to study in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, China, Japan, Australia, Germany, France etc. In total, Mr. Sethy pointed out that 97% of the children have enrolled in schools, 3.5 million pupils and students are attending their classes (one out of four people), which is not bad. What is worrying is the quality of the education system, the low salary of teachers, the high dropout rate in high schools, the discrepancy between learned subjects and the real job market, the reading culture among students, the learning pattern of students (learning by heart, rather than by understanding and thinking), the lack of researches and researchers, the study equipments; which make the level of our education system one of the lowest in the region.
It is a big challenge for Cambodia as a whole to get our youth trained properly for the job markets. And the economic integration of ASEAN in 2015 would make life not easier for our youths, but it might be harder for more competition. Despite all the new IT, internet access, new learning materials and plenty opportunities, some of our youths are wasting their time to do something else, which is not productive at all or even destructive.
Looking back to my own experience in the eighties: I was a poor student (my parent has eight children to feed), did not have money to buy even a dictionary to use, earned extra money for study by riding bicycle taxi, did not have proper paper to write on (only using old newspapers), went to the class in the morning without having money to eat breakfast, could not learn English properly since it was forbidden that time etc….Though all the hardship, I managed to pass my high school exam with “very good” grade, was one among the eight best students out of 1,000 students nationwide. I am still proud of my achievement and got the scholarship to study in East-Germany in 1984. I would love to see that youth in this generation would learn harder for own future and the future of this country.