Cambodia: A focus on quality early grade learning for National Reading Day

Today, Cambodia celebrates its 5th National Reading Day. This is an opportunity to recognize the importance of early grade reading – and learning overall - and to reflect upon what has been achieved in the many steps taken toward improving the quality of education in the country.

 

March 11, 2020 by Ilaria Vanzin, UNESCO
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4 minute read
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A student practices Khmer literacy skills by writing on the classroom board
A student practices Khmer literacy skills by writing on the classroom board
UNESCO Cambodia

Today, Cambodia celebrates its 5th National Reading Day – an initiative begun by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), in cooperation with key development partners and NGOs, to embrace a love of reading, especially from a young age.

Five years on, National Reading Day is an opportunity to recognize the importance of early grade reading – and learning overall; to reflect upon what has been achieved, especially by MoEYS in the many steps taken toward improving the quality of education in Cambodia; and to acknowledge the journey ahead where each of us can play a part.

A global and regional perspective on the state of education

Globally, 6 out of 10 children and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. The UNESCO study (2017) indicates that in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, almost one-third, or 78 million children and adolescents, will not read proficiently if current trends continue.

Of most concern is that the vast majority of children and adolescents who are not learning are actually in school, which highlights serious issues regarding the quality of education.

Two girls read the Khmer learning materials distributed as part of STEPCam
Two girls read the Khmer learning materials distributed as part of STEPCam
UNESCO Cambodia

Improving the quality of education in Cambodia through collaborative efforts

In June 2018, the third consecutive Global Partnership for Education Sector Implementation Grant for Cambodia was launched, in which the MoEYS is working toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) – quality education for all children.

This third grant – also known as GPE-3 – has brought together complementary efforts from MoEYS, UNESCO and UNICEF, as well as other development partners, including USAID, the European Union, SIDA, and many NGOs, to collaborate at a national level and make a significant impact in strengthening the education system, by piloting and institutionalizing scalable and sustainable models.

Alongside our many partners, we are collectively working to improve teachers’ knowledge, skills and attitudes for better teaching and learning in schools, to ensure higher quality and more inclusive learning opportunities for children, and to enable Cambodia to maintain a steady path towards the achievement of SDG 4.

Focusing on early grade learning for lifelong achievements

Under the fixed component of GPE-3, which is known as Strengthening Teacher Education Programs in Cambodia (STEPCam), UNESCO operates as the grant agent. The overall aim of STEPCam is to enhance the quality of teaching to improve student learning in the early grades.

The holistic focus of STEPCam, and in turn GPE-3, on early grade learning is significant; international evidence demonstrates how these early years create the foundation for lifelong positive academic achievements of children, as well as opportunities for social inclusion and a sustainable lifestyle.

We have documented the worthy progress made across STEPCam within its first year, and more recently in upgrading the qualifications of teacher educators.

There is much to be proud but of most relevance today is the in-service training for teachers of early grade Khmer reading and mathematics, using new teaching techniques, a student-centered approach and mentoring.

Through this component of work and the efforts of many partners involved, the MoEYS officially launched Komar Rien Komar Cheh last month – the national early grade learning program focused on Khmer and mathematics.

A student reads the Khmer learning materials with a UNESCO STEPCam technical advisor during a monitoring mission
A student reads the Khmer learning materials with a UNESCO STEPCam technical advisor during a monitoring mission
UNESCO Cambodia

Pheap Sreytoch, a Grade 1 teacher who is part of the early grade reading program from the Siem Reap province, says:

“Through the early grade reading program, students are reading and writing better than before and thinking more deeply. The teaching and learning materials, such as the colorful letter picture cards, are engaging students and helping them practice their reading. Students are attending class regularly, participating in all activities, helping their peers where possible and, most of all, enjoying their learning experience.

“The MoEYS early grade learning packages not only benefit students, but also teachers. I find my knowledge of teaching methodologies has improved and I am able to easily write a lesson plan thanks to the clear content within the teacher guide. As teachers of the new early grade learning program, Komar Rien Komar Cheh, we have the opportunity to contribute to the quality education of children across the country as well as continue our own lifelong learning.”

As part of Komar Rien Komar Cheh, parents, families and communities are also considered key parts of the learning equation and are encouraged to foster a reading and learning environment into their homes through activities, such as bedtime reading.

We all have a role to play in educating our children and improving learning outcomes – this doesn’t happen only in a classroom environment.

As we strive to achieve SDG 4 through collaborative and harmonized efforts, together we can foster a love of reading and learning, and create a successful early grade learning experience for our future generations.

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Salutes to Cambodia in honoring their 5th National Reading Day. We have a bigger responsibility in educating our children and adolescents with good quality education. Kudos to Pheap for being a true teacher to the children of Cambodia. Cultivating the idea of life long learning will reap benefits for generations to come.

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