Cambodia is known internationally as a success story of educational reconstruction and transformation following the Khmer Rouge’s rule in the 1970s when much of the country’s education system was destroyed. Significant progress has been made since then with a huge expansion in the availability of schools and children’s access to education.
While more Cambodian children are entering school –with primary net enrolment increasing from 87 per cent to 98 per cent between 2001 and 2015 (including private schools)–marginalized children are still deprived of their right to an inclusive and quality education. Children from poor rural families, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities are more likely to be excluded from, or not complete primary school, with little difference between boys and girls.
Cambodia’s growing economy, while demonstrating progress in poverty reduction, is perversely affecting poor children’s education. Income-generating opportunities in the formal or informal sectors have the potential to keep children out of school and disrupt their education. UNICEF research suggests that children who work over 23 hours a week are more likely to drop out of school.
Other major challenges include children’s low ‘readiness to learn’ that is influenced by their home environment and inadequate nutrition. Insufficient pre-schools for children between the ages of 3 and 5 is another challenge for children's preparation for school in Cambodia. Children who experience pre-school are more likely to be ‘ready to learn,’ with better brain and physical development as well as social skills. Yet, only 35 per cent of children aged 3 to 5 years were enrolled in pre-school in academic-year 2014/15.
For more information about UNICEF’s Inclusive Quality Education programme, download this file.