Cambodia invests in the early years to build a strong foundation for learning
A new program supported by a GPE grant aims to ensure quality education through continuous professional development for teachers, particularly in the early grades.
October 30, 2018 by Liesbeth Roolvink, UNESCO|
Trainers conducted several mini-lessons using the new materials. One group discusses an exercise in the student book while another group helps the students write the letter in the air. On the sits Chea Samnang, an award winning first grade teacher.
CREDIT: Liesbeth Roolvink

Last June, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) in Cambodia launched its 3rd education program financed by a US$20.6 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education. The grant brings together complementary efforts from the ministry, UNESCO and UNICEF, as well as other education development partners including USAID and RTI.

The program supported by the GPE grant is called “Strengthening Teacher Education Programs in Cambodia” (STEPCam) and supports the ministry’s efforts to ensure quality education through continuous professional development for teachers, in particular in the early grades.

The program will assist the ministry in developing a sustainable system to strengthen teacher skills, in line with its Teacher Policy Action Plan. These investments are expected to contribute significantly to improving the quality of education and therefore to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4).

Launch of the Early Grade Learning Initiative

October 16th marked the launch of the program’s implementation, which will be piloted in public schools beginning on November 1, the start of the new academic year, with support from GPE and USAID.

At a launch, Nath Bunroeun, Secretary of State, MoEYS, explained that this work builds on the foundation established with previous GPE-funded programs and provides complementary materials to support teachers in enriching their teaching practice to enhance learning outcomes.

MoEYS acknowledges that Grade 1 is one of the most challenging grades to teach as students are still very playful and new to the school environment. They need to learn how to learn and at the same time need to master the foundational literacy and numeracy skills. However, this is also one of the most rewarding grades because of the progress that can be made in one year. This is why MoEYS is committed to investing in the Early Grade Learning Initiative, as it is an investment in our human capital, ” he said.

A mentoring program will give teachers a support network to guide them during implementation of the new approaches and support their professional development further.

In its first year, the national program will provide training to all 1,500+ grade 1 teachers in Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces on the new Khmer Language package through a unique integrated approach to programming. In the last decade many good projects have been implemented by the ministry and NGO partners but this created a need for greater coordination. Therefore the ministry initiated a process to bring all existing initiatives, materials and approaches together into one harmonized national Early Grade Learning program, led by the ministry with financial support from GPE and USAID and technical input from NGO partners.

Initially the national program will be implemented in 5 provinces with systematic data collection to measure impact. This allows the ministry to collect evidence on improved learning outcomes, which is needed for national budget allocations for education.  

After the first year’s pilot, the program will expand to at least 3 more provinces in years 2 and 3 and also to other Grades.

A core team of 39 national trainers have trained the teachers on how to use the new materials in a very practical, hands-on training, which will continue throughout the school year. Trainer and award-winning outstanding Grade 1 teacher Chea Samnang shares why he is excited about the new package: 

“Before we only had the textbook but now we have a teacher guide with clear lesson plans, a student book, story books and picture cards. We now have many new ideas for different language activities. The teachers like this training because they practice a lot in small groups so they understand and experience how to use it in their own classroom. The students will really like it because they normally find Khmer very difficult but with these different materials, it will be much easier and more fun too”.

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East Asia and Pacific: Cambodia

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