As the Strengthening Teacher Education Programs in Cambodia (STEPCam) starts its third year of implementation, the pivotal role of mentoring to improve instructional practice in the classroom has become clear.
Drawing upon local and international expertise, STEPCam worked closely with the Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) to develop a school-based early grade learning mentoring model that is contextually appropriate while meeting international quality standards. It balances teachers’ need for frequent and hands-on mentorship with concerns around cost-effectiveness and sustainability.
STEPCam is a three-year initiative jointly implemented by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and UNESCO with financial support from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the Capacity Development for Education Program (CapED). It aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the early grades.
A school-based early grade mentoring model
It is clear that teacher’s professional development does not stop with training. They need the opportunity to practice what they have learned in the classroom and receive immediate, constructive feedback from their peers to improve their professional practice.
This is especially critical when they are trained on new materials and instructional techniques. STEPCam’s new teaching and learning materials and training packages prepare Grade 1 and 2 teachers on how to improve the quality of teaching Khmer literacy and mathematics with an age-appropriate, inclusive and student-centered approach. Given the significant shift in pedagogy that this represents, teachers need extra support in absorbing and applying the content.
Chanthul Pov, a master mentor from Chhlong district that lies along the Mekong river in Kratie province, shared that one of the main challenges faced by teachers is retention of new content, “They frequently struggle with the flow of lesson content… School-based mentoring can help mentors reinforce the content of the training teachers are provided.” If the mentors are already in the same school as the teacher, there is already a trusted, professional relationship that ensure consistency in support.