STEPCam: A blueprint for early grade learning in Cambodia
Funded by GPE and the UNESCO Capacity Development for Education Program, STEPCam aims to improve early grade learning through four interventions.
September 19, 2019 by Ilaria Vanzin, UNESCO|
Students engaging with the teacher during a class in one of the pilot schools in Siem Reap.

Last July marked the first anniversary of the launch of the Strengthening Teacher Education Program in Cambodia (STEPCam), a three years initiative designed by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS).

STEPCam is funded through the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNESCO Capacity Development for Education Program (CapED), to support the MoEYS in improving the quality of teaching and learning in the early grades. STEPCam is the third consecutive GPE grant for Cambodia since 2008.

Overall, through STEPCam’s support, the MoEYS will deliver better, more engaging and effective continuous professional development) to more than 4,000 teachers, teacher educators and almost 3,000 key school staff members across Cambodia.

While the STEPCam targets teachers’ continuous professional development, learners, especially from disadvantaged areas and groups, are also key beneficiaries. Over 225,900 primary students of grades 1 -2 will directly benefit from STEPCam, thereby directly contributing to Cambodia’s efforts towards achievement of SDG 4: ensuring inclusive and equitable education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.

Through a phased and holistic approach spanning four key components, STEPCam aims to improve early grade learning, with the overarching objective of supporting the implementation of the Cambodia’s Education Strategic Plan 2019-2023.

At the core of the program is the institutionalized INSET (in-service training) professional development of teachers (Component 2), which entails capacity development to design, develop and provide innovative learning and teaching materials for Khmer subject, and teacher guides for maths (grades 1 & 2). The initiative promotes the adoption of a new student-centered approach, fostering an inquisitive mindset and active participation.   

The teaching materials will also sensitize and build the understanding on teachers on broader cross-cutting aspects, including equity, inclusivity and gender.  

A gender-sensitive approach is embedded into teaching and training materials and methodologies. Characters in the books and pedagogical tools are gender balanced, and implicitly designed to address traditional misconceptions on gender-roles. They allow learners to develop social-consciousness and inclusiveness to become responsible global citizens.   

STEPCam introduces an interactive approach in the classroom, making teaching and learning a rewarding process, such as innovative interventions and flipped classroom strategies, allowing children to engage and immerse themselves into the learning process.

As STEPCam targets teachers, the pedagogical tools and materials include methodologies to sustain and strengthen their skillsets across a wide spectrum, such as building their understanding and adopting formative assessments to foster inclusive and student-centered teaching approaches.

Together with the training on the early grade packages, a mentoring system has been put in place, where teachers receive continuous mentorship and mentors visit and observe lessons at least twice a month per teacher.  

As Mono KEO, Technical Advisor for STEPCam points out:

The first step is building the foundations of a new approach. STEPCam complements the use of textbooks and harmonizes previous practices, making sure all steps are duly taken into account, and ensuring that the teaching approach is truly gradual.

During the first year, early grade reading was piloted in the entire province of Siem Reap, and 851 Grade 1 teachers were trained. A preliminary pilot of early grade math was conducted in two districts, Chikreng and Angkor Thom, in which 147 Grade 1 teachers were trained.

A teacher using the new methodology developed under STEPCam in her day-to-day classroom activities. Credit: UNESCO Cambodia
A teacher using the new methodology developed under STEPCam in her day-to-day classroom activities.

In the academic year 2019-2020, Grade 1 math will be implemented throughout Siem Reap Province, while Grade 1 Khmer will be rolled-out in the other four provinces identified by STEPCam as priority (Kratie, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Oddar Meanchey).

By the end of 2021, all learning packages and training for both Grade 1 and 2 Khmer Reading and math will be finalized for national roll-out.

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East Asia and Pacific: Cambodia

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This is a great initiative for the provision of quality Education. I commend Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNESCO Capacity Development for Education Program (CapED), to support the MoEYS in improving the quality of teaching and learning in the early grades in Cambodia. I would like to share and recommend a book that can also be used to empower teachers to deliver lessons which promote learning across the complete ability range for both girls and boys. The book is title: “Designing a Computer Plus Talk Teaching Sequence for Science Lessons. For Secondary Schools” The design framework described in this book can be used to develop, plan and deliver lessons in both a computer supported learning or a normal conventional learning classroom. This book has been nominated for the UNESCO ICT in Education Prize Award 2019

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