For every child, quality education and life skills.

Groups of students leave school at Kampong Thmar Primary School, Kang Sao village, Santok district, Kampong Thom commune, Kampong Thom province on July 5, 2018.
UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Todd Brown


All children have the right to learn, whatever their circumstances. Adequate support to learning is crucial for them to develop to their full potential. However, in Cambodia many girls and boys are falling behind, particularly those who live in poor rural and urban areas.

Cambodia has made terrific progress in educating its children. Since 2007, the number of children enrolled in preschool programmes has more than doubled. The number of children enrolled in primary education has increased from 82 per cent in 1997 to over 97 per cent in school year 2017/18.

While progress is tangible, children in Cambodia are still failing to reach learning standards appropriate for their age. At the primary level, nearly 25 per cent of children in Grade 3 cannot write a single word in a dictation test. Only 27 per cent of 3- to 5-year-olds are developmentally on track in literacy and numeracy, and by the time they are 17 years old, 55 per cent of adolescents will have dropped out of school.

43 per cent of children aged 3 to 5 years are enrolled in early childhood education (2017/18).

Education's challenge in Cambodia
UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Fani

Cambodian children continue to fall behind in school for a number of reasons, including not being adequately prepared for school, experiencing poor quality teaching and learning, and attending school irregularly. This eventually leads to many of them dropping out altogether.

Inadequate learning in the early years of life, coupled with insufficient nutrition, leaves children developmentally behind. There are not enough qualified teachers, and the quality of learning environments is poor. There is a lack of basic infrastructure, such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, which particularly impacts adolescent girls and children with disabilities. Violence is a problem in schools, with teachers using corporal punishment. Children with disabilities still experience discrimination. Many parents cannot understand the value of education and most cannot afford to send their children to school, particularly in rural and deprived areas.

Education is an investment in the future of children and of nations.

Overall, large numbers of girls and boys remain out of school at all levels of education, from early childhood through to adolescence. Most children drop out before reaching secondary school. Girls and boys from disadvantaged groups are struggling to realize their potential as they face difficulties getting to, and staying in, school.

More efforts are needed to help children go to and stay in school


Strong leadership, quality teaching and a healthy school environment encourage parents to send their children to school, and encourage students to stay in school. UNICEF continues to work with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and other partners to ensure that children go to and stay in school, and most importantly, that they learn well when they are there.

Education is critically important to Cambodia’s development. The country’s development strategy focuses on its young, dynamic and mobile population as a major contributor to sustainable development and economic growth. The government continues to allocate substantial public budget to education, and UNICEF is building on current momentum to reform the education sector.

To ensure that every child learns, we focus on equitable and inclusive access to education for children with disabilities, children from ethnic minorities and children living in rural and urban poor areas.

Education provides children with a ladder out of poverty and a path to a stable and promising future.

A female teacher reads a book with her class at Kampong Thmar Primary School, Kang Sao village, Santok district, Kampong Thom commune, Kampong Thom province on July 5, 2018.
UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Todd Brown

Unlock access to education

UNICEF works with the government and other partners to give all children equitable and inclusive access to education. This means tackling the barriers that keep children away from school, such as poverty, remoteness, stigma and discrimination.

Specifically, we support the government to provide: scholarships for children of poor households, so they can stay in school instead of dropping out to go to work; access to quality early childhood education services, especially in rural and remote areas; accessible school facilities for girls and boys, with and without disabilities; schools with adequate water and sanitation facilities, so children don’t get sick from contaminated water or lack of hygiene, and adolescent girls don’t drop out because they cannot manage menstruation hygienically at school; qualified multilingual teachers for ethnic minority students, particularly in the north-eastern provinces; and skilled teachers to teach children with disabilities.

Focus on quality teaching and learning

With the government and other partners, we work to improve the quality of education so that Cambodian children can embark on a life-long learning journey. We advocate for financial investment that allows for better training for teachers, from early childhood through to secondary education. Our mobilization campaigns and training promote positive discipline in the classroom without the use of corporal punishment and we encourage school leaders and teachers to replace violence with positive reinforcement. We also advocate positive parenting in communities.

We help the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in its efforts to revise the national curriculum, including the syllabus, learning standards, teacher training and textbooks, so that 21st century skills are integrated into the Cambodian education system. One of our key priorities is to include health, nutrition and life skills in the curriculum, so that adolescents can learn how to become healthy, capable and responsible adults.

Build leadership and support

From the government level to the community level, a supportive environment is essential to create a generation of young Cambodians who can be active members of society.

Joined by our partners, we work to build effective leadership and management among government officials and education staff. We provide technical training so that officials can budget and plan to create inclusive, equitable, relevant and quality education services, and we help school leaders and teachers plan and allocate their resources more effectively.  

But we know that real progress comes from involving families and communities, which is why we work with local school support committee members to promote education among families, and support communication efforts to improve how parents value education. We do this to stimulate a demand for education so that girls and boys are increasingly nurtured by parents and communities to attend and complete early childhood and basic education.