Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of teachers as essential workers has become clear. We celebrate World Teachers’ Day keeping in mind this year’s international theme, “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future” and Cambodia’s national theme, “Smart teachers for digital education”.
After school closures that affected more than 1.5 billion learners at the height of the pandemic, teachers had to work individually and collectively to find solutions with limited resources in unprecedented circumstances.
Adapting quickly to remote learning
In Cambodia, where the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS) launched a continuous learning program immediately following school closures in March, teachers had to become resourceful. With limited access to the Internet, they had to improvise – teach students in small groups, pass out weekly worksheets and conduct at-home monitoring visits.
In response to the need for guidance by teachers on how to adapt to these new circumstances, MoEYS developed a set of guidelines that outlined the roles and responsibilities of teachers, and directives on distance learning, which included directions on how to establish online learning groups with students and caregivers; how to access the newly developed continuous learning programs; and how to develop paper-based learning materials.
While MoEYS, like many other ministries in Cambodia, has suffered from budget cuts as an economic fallout of COVID-19, they were able to retain and continue to pay their public school teachers. They however, were unable to retain many contract teachers.
Subsequently, within a short period of time and fewer resources, Cambodia’s teachers had to familiarize themselves with new technologies and incorporate unfamiliar distance learning instructional techniques into their practice. They set up online learning groups with their students on social media platforms, developed a variety of paper-based materials and assessment tools; and regularly followed up with students remotely and in-person on how to access the new e-learning resources.
Early grade teachers with large classrooms especially felt the pressure of this new modality as they worked to break large number of students into small groups that required additional time, materials and in-person monitoring.