101st out of 140 countries for quality of education and enrollment is how the World Economic Forum recently rated Cambodia. The country, where 48% of the population is younger than 24, has dedicated considerable resources to strengthening education over the last three decades, but many challenges remain. These include an under-resourced education system, discrimination against children with disabilities and overage learners, beliefs that education is not important for all, poor school environments, remoteness, a lack of education in the mother language for children of ethnic minorities, migration, gender stereotypes, child exploitation, poverty and family difficulties. Children of disadvantaged, poor and remote communities, with disabilities or of ethnic minority background, as well as girls, are among the most affected. Cambodia has no compulsory schooling yet.
These challenges negatively impact the learning opportunities and outcomes – and eventually future economic and personal well-being – of many children in Cambodia.
The Educational Strategic Plan 2014-2018 of the Royal Government of Cambodia outlines the commitment to ensuring equal opportunity to access quality education regardless of social status, geography, ethnicity, religion, language, gender and disability status, but it is clear that there is still a way to go before this is achieved. Over the last decade, Cambodia’s National Institute for Statistics has also shown a national enrollment rate of more than 95%, but the general consensus is that this does not reflect the reality on the ground as enrollment does not take into account actual attendance, nor is it an indicator of the quality of learning outcomes which have been shown to still be substandard in Cambodia. This is further aggravated by the discrepancies between marginalized and non-marginalized children as well as between urban and rural areas in accessing education. In addition, drop-out and completion rates stress the need for a relevant and quality education.
All this highlights that the education system still fails to provide suitable educational services for every child in the country.
Aide et Action has been working in Cambodia since 2003 to help improve the education system and make access to a quality education a reality for more children, if not all, with a focus on the most disadvantaged, marginalized and remote children and communities. A major step was taken in 2014 when, with the financial support of Educate A Child (EAC) the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children (CCOSC), a coalition of 17 organizations was launched to provide equitable access to quality education to more than 57,000 out-of-school children over a period of 3,5 years. Aide et Action Cambodia was chosen to lead this consortium. Besides the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children, we have been (and are!) running a number of projects that have all been contributing to changing lives through education in Cambodia.