• Cambodia’s education system is structured into a 6+3+3 formula -students spend their first 6 years in primary school (grades 1–6), followed by 3 years in secondary school (grades 7–9)  and 3 years in high school (grades 10–12) before sitting the diploma examination.1 Cambodian students are therefore required to spend 12 years in school before they graduate from their general education. In accordance with the Cambodian constitution’s article 68, for the first nine year of schooling, education is free for all. Cambodian students are eligible to enroll for classes in public schools across the country without paying any tuition fee.2 The cost is covered by the government through the national budget for education.3

    Young Cambodian students are smiling in the class. Photo by Global Partnership for Education. Taken in December 2011. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MOEYS) is the main institutional body that oversees all educational related activities in the country. The government’s education budget in 2019 saw a 9% increase from the previous year – US$935 million compared to $818 US million in 2018.4 However, it was reported in late 2020 that the government’s draft budget for 2021 allocated $825 million for education, an decrease due to the affected of the COVID-19 pandemic.5​ A large proportion of this budget is prioritized to enhance the quality and accessibility of primary education.6

    Primary education is crucial for individual development and the country as a whole, especially for a developing country like Cambodia.7 It allows individuals to improve their literacy skills such as reading and writing, gives them better opportunities for employment and provides them with general knowledge.8 These factors improve human capital and the economic development of the country. Acknowledging its importance, the overall education sector has improved in the last decades through government effort. According to MOEYS, the enrollment rate for primary education was 97% in the 2017–2018 school year compared to the 1997 school year where only 82% of children were enrolled.9 The dropout rate has decreased from 10.5% in 2013 to 4.1% in the 2017 school year. The pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools is 44.5 students per teacher while the pupil-classroom ratio is 46 students per class.10

    Statistic on Cambodia Primary School in 2018-2019

    Source: Public Education Statistic & Indicator 2018-2019 (MOEYS), revived from
    PESI 2018-2019.
    Provinces Number of Primary SchoolNumber of Dis. schoolNumber of classesNumber of ClassroomTeaching Staff
    Whole Kingdom7,2285562,20844,38545,836
    Urban Area67509,1686,5039,565
    Rural Area6,5535553,04037,89236,271
    Banteay Meanchey41043,2132,2752,911
    Kampong Cham40823,8672,8552,601
    Kampong Chhnang27802,2371,5111,779
    Kampong Speu31312,9032,1302,225
    Kampong Thom48723,3092,3962,425
    Koh Kong1214798512615
    Oddar Meanchey21801,5041,007957
    Phnom Penh16403,3602,2413,648
    Preah Sihanouk724822558833
    Preah Vihear22871,5391,0671,203
    Prey Veng54424,5313,4412,765
    Ratanak Kiri22051,393877776
    Siem Reap50314,5273,1803,111
    Stung Treng15211,140695742
    Svay Rieng26202,2271,7791,685
    Tboung Khmum39963,3052,2702,192

    According to Public Education Statistic 2018-2019, there are 7,228 primary schools located in 24 provinces across the country in the 2018–2019 school year.11 Out of those schools, 6,553 are located in rural areas while the rest, 675, are in urban areas.12 Those Schools provided 62, 208 classes, 53,040 in rural and 9,168 in urban area that hosted approximately 2 million students.13 There are around 45,836 teaching staff of which more than 50% are female (26,120).14 Disadvantaged primary schools still exist in some parts of the country – around 55 schools fall into this category.15 Disadvantaged schools often lack quality teaching materials, have an unfavorable learning environment and poor study equipment and all of them are seen in rural areas.16

    Interactive map of primary school locations across the country with the 2020 road network, along with the locations of school in flood-prone areas in 2013

    Around 73% of primary schools have implemented a Child-Friendly School policy which allows for a better learning environment and effective learning quality for children.17 To ensure better public service delivery and inclusive education, MOEYS has also implemented the Multilingual Education National Action Plan to integrate multilingual education into the public school curriculum.18 MOEYS  has also added indigenous languages in some schools so that minority groups are included .19 New teaching pedagogy such as a student-centered approach and the integration of ICT tools into the primary school curriculum to assist learning and teaching has also been introduced in recent years.20 During the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic, distance and online learning were the alternative way of learning as schools were closed.21

    Even though progress is tangible, providing accessible, quality and inclusive basic education for all remains a challenge, especially for children who live in poverty and are located in rural areas. 22 Students with disabilities also struggle to find a favorable environment to study as schools do not generally have disability-support learning devices.23 Working on these, the Cambodia government is reforming this sector and has set out goals and targets to achieve through various strategic frameworks and policies such as the Education Strategic Plan 2019–2023, Cambodia Sustainable Development Goal (SDGS) number 4 on the Education Road Map 2030, Teacher Policy Action Plan, School Health Policy and so on.

    Chi Phat primary school, Koh Kong Province. Photo by ODC team, taken on 28 November 2017. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

    MOEYS has put strong emphasis on improving teaching standards and quality by providing intensive teacher training such as early grade training, long and short professional development programs, providing supporting documents for teaching, developing a teacher training curriculum and so on.24 Mechanisms and indicators to measure teacher performance have also been established to ensure a high standard and quality of teaching.25 MOEYS’s effort to support disadvantaged groups of children to finish their primary education has been integrated into their scholarship program for students from poor families and students with disabilities, implementing programs for slow learners, implementing learning programs that support students with disabilities and infrastructure development to ensure a clean and safe learning environment for everyone.26

    Related to Primary education


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