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Cambodia: Subject-Based Classroom Improves Student Learning

  • The subject-based classroom is a part of the Child-Friendly School Policy launched by the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport in December 2007, aimed at improving the quality of the learning environment. Each subject-based classroom is the setting for teaching from one to four subjects.
  • The introduction of subject-based classrooms in Tropang Chres secondary school in Kon Mom district of Ratanakiri province makes it a stand-out success among schools in Cambodia.
  • Challenges remain for some, particularly new schools and schools short of teachers, which find it hard to set up or to sustain subject-based classrooms.

January 5, 2010 — Chan Srey Lin, an 8th grade student at Tropang Chres secondary school, enjoys studying in her new Subject-Based Classroom. “I like studying in a subject-based classroom because it is a friendly and good environment. It is easy for me to learn and to absorb what our teachers tell us.” 

The subject-based classroom is a part of the Child-Friendly School Policy launched by the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport in December 2007, aimed at improving the quality of the learning environment. Each subject-based classroom is the setting for teaching from one to four subjects; for example, math, physics and chemistry could be grouped together as one; history and geography as another.

Chan Ratha, Principal of Tropang Chres secondary school in Kon Mom district of Ratanakiri province, said her school had introduced subject-based classrooms in 2007 and found it encourages students to come to class and actively participate in producing their own teaching materials, such as maps, mathematical, chemistry and other formula charts, artwork and so on.

“I see that students are very active in participating in this kind of classroom compared with what we used to have before,” she said.

In the past, she said, students from grade 7 to 9 remained in their classroom while their subject teachers came and went. However, since no teacher was responsible for the classroom in which they taught, there were generally no learning displays on the walls and the classroom was often a barren environment. Now, with the subject-based classroom, it is the students rather than the teachers who move from room to room. The classrooms have become dedicated environments for their special subjects. And moving classrooms to change subjects gives the pupils a break to refresh themselves for the next lesson.

In the two years since the new policy has been implemented in her school, Ratha has noticed students’ learning has significantly improved.

Nget Sophen, who teaches grade 7, 8 and 9 on geography and history at Tropang Chres Secondary School, agreed with his Principal that his students’ learning had greatly much improved. In particular, he said, the new system encourages slow learners to communicate with better students in the class.
Sophen added that the subject-based classroom is an easier environment for teachers because the appropriate teaching materials are right there in the classroom.

“If we want to show a map, for example, we just point to a big map hanging on the wall; no need for everyone to try to look in the teacher’s text book,” he said.

Tropang Chres Secondary School’s introduction of subject-based classrooms makes it a stand-out success among schools in Cambodia. However, some schools, particularly new schools and schools short of teachers, find it hard to set up or to sustain subject-based classrooms.

Seng Chantha, Principal of Tropang Kroham Secondary School 9 km from Tropang Chres School, is planning to introduce subject-based classrooms in the next academic year.

“I see that this kind of classroom allows students to participate more in their learning; it favors student-centered learning,” he said. “However, because we don’t have enough teachers, it will be a big challenge for us.”

Mr. Chantha said his school has only four teachers, himself included. Each of them teaches four subjects for grades 7, 8 and 9. This multiple-subject teaching enables teachers to focus thoroughly on their particular subjects.

The subject-based classroom program is supported by the Cambodia Education Sector Support Project, which is supported by the World Bank.




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