Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cambodia gets $27 million grant to help with secondary education

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending a $27.1 million grant to help improve the quality of secondary education in Cambodia through institutional reforms, teacher training and improving facilities.

The project is estimated to cost $33.38 million. The government of Cambodia will cover the balance.

“The government has made enhancing the quality of education a high priority to make the education system more efficient and to improve academic achievements. It also recognizes that investments in secondary education are needed to meet the growing demand for a well-educated and skilled work force,” said Sukhdeep Brar, principal education specialist of ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

The project involves enhancing the capacity of the government’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in planning, managing, administering and regulating the education system of the country. The current education system comprises primary, which is from grades one to six; lower secondary, which is from grades seven to nine; and upper secondary, which comprises grades 10-12. Basic education covers grades one to nine. Entry to upper secondary level is regulated by a national examination at the end of grade nine.

Teacher training colleges will also be provided with better facilities under the project, while some 14,400 lower and upper secondary teachers will benefit from in-service training. Around 300 upper secondary schools will also be assisted in school management, networking and improvement planning. The project will also provide 350,000 upper secondary students with new textbooks and 7,000 upper secondary teachers with teachers’ guides.

Expansion of education in Cambodia has been fueled by the government’s commitment and extensive support from development partners like ADB. However, the overall quality and efficiency of education remains a serious concern. Low enrolment rates at the secondary level and low percentage of students completing school indicate there are large numbers of young people outside the school system who may be unskilled and unemployable.

Within the education system, schools have poor physical infrastructure and inadequate learning materials, laboratories and libraries. Teachers are also poorly qualified and unmotivated. Limited resources hamper the ability of the government to make improvements and the poor performance of the education system wastes whatever limited resources are available.

“The project will help the government achieve its goal of poverty reduction and economic development by enhancing the quality of education. Given the rapidly expanding national economy and the global trends in demand for education at all levels, the education sector in Cambodia will continue to experience rapid growth and exert pressure on the government’s management capacity,” said Ms. Brar.

Cambodia is experiencing rapid economic expansion. In 2006, gross domestic product growth was estimated at 10.4%, fueled by strong industrial production, services and construction activity. Agricultural production expanded by a stronger-than-expected 4.4%. The economic growth trend is expected to persist in the medium term.

A rapidly growing urban economy coupled with the continuing dominance of agriculture as the country’s primary employer creates a dual challenge for the government in meeting the emerging demand for a qualified, skilled and competitive work force while bridging disparities in access to education and meeting its goals of universal primary education.

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