Keeping children—particularly poor children—in school beyond the first few years of school, enhancing the quality of teachers and reducing the large student:teacher ratio (49:1 in primary schools) are the most significant challenges facing the educational system in Cambodia. Children are expected to work to contribute to the livelihoods of households and this directly interferes with schooling. Household direct costs for schooling, such as pocket money, transportation costs, and supplementary tutoring, remain substantial for the majority of Cambodian families. Given these challenges, the Education Sector Support Project was designed to include measures to attract children to school at the proper enrollment age and at the same time, attract, retain, develop, and motivate teachers to reduce dropout rates and improve the quality of education. School incentive schemes that provide cash or in-kind subsidies to poor children, conditional on school attendance, are also included as part of the project design.
Together with development partners, the International Development Association (IDA) has been instrumental in supporting the government’s adoption of institutional reforms, such as the Education Strategic Plan, to achieve its education-related Millennium Development Goals. Detailed analysis and policy dialogue have been accompanied by projects funded by IDA and by a multi-donor trust fund (Fast-track Initiative Catalytic Fund).
The main objectives of the government’s approach to improving education include:
- Ensuring equitable access to early childhood, primary (grades 1-6) and lower secondary (grades 7-9) educational services by reducing cost barriers to schooling and investing in facilities in targeted areas, the poorest rural areas with overcrowded schools.
- Improving the quality and efficiency of services through greater decentralization of school management, enhanced teacher professional development, and provision of instructional materials.
- Developing national assessment systems and teacher standards.
- Developing higher education systems and capacity.
- Strengthening the institutional capacity to administer educational services and to implement quality-control mechanisms.
So far, the project has had the following results:
- A total of 27,502 lower secondary school students have received scholarships to complete all nine years of their basic education.
- The primary education dropout rate was reduced from 10.8 to 8.8 percent between academic years 2006-7 and 2009-10.
- A total of 6,343 primary school teachers were trained to become basic education teachers (up to grade 9).
- A total of 908 school directors were trained in school leadership.
- A total of 234 school buildings for lower secondary schools and 13 buildings for primary schools that had an insufficient number of classrooms were constructed. National assessment systems were developed. Tests were conducted for mathematics and Khmer language at grades 3, 6, and 9, and a second round of the testing has been started.
- Higher education institution accreditation standards were formalized and assessment procedures are being formalized.
- A higher education vision and strategy for 2020 was finalized.
The trust-funded portion of the project, the Education Sector Support Scale-Up Action Program (ESSUAP), has achieved the following:
- A total of 5,161 primary school students received conditional cash transfers to support them to complete all six years of primary education.
- A total of 159 primary schools received School Improvement Grants.
- A total of 160 community preschool programs and 150 home-based care programs were established.
- A total of 1,120 primary school directors were trained in school leadership.
to buy food.
IDA is providing US$28 million of the total cost of US$30 million for the project. In addition, the Fast Track Initiative (FTI) multi-donor trust fund provides US$57.4 million to implement the ESSUAP.
Thirty development partners contribute funds to the FTI multi-donor trust fund, which is part of the global Education For All - Fast-track Initiative.
The ESSUAP will continue until June 30, 2012, supporting the following components:
- Early childhood education: establishing 650 new preschool classes, 150 home-based care programs, and 150 community preschool programs, and constructing 25 preschool buildings and one preschool teacher training center.
- Primary education: constructing 650 school buildings; providing school improvement grants and supplementary learning materials to 650 schools; awarding primary education conditional cash transfers to 10,000 students; training 15,000 teachers in child-friendly school methodology and 1,500 principals in effective leadership and school management.
The World Bank is complementing these efforts by increasing its focus on higher education. It recently approved IDA finance for the Higher Education Quality and Capacity Improvement Project that aims to improve the governance and management of higher education, to support research and to provide scholarships for disadvantaged students.