UNICEF Country Programme 2019–2023, for every child, quality education and life skills.
All children have the right to learn, whatever their circumstances, and adequate support to learning is crucial if children are to develop to their full potential. Quality and inclusive education is central to the overall development of inclusive societies.
Cambodia is known internationally as a success story in educational reconstruction and transformation, following the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s when much of the country’s education system was destroyed. Significant progress has been made since then, with remarkable expansion in children’s access to education.
Today, more Cambodian children are entering school than ever before. The number of children enrolled in primary education increased from 82 per cent in 1997 to over 97.8 per cent in school year 2017/18, while enrolment in early childhood education (ECE) has more than doubled since 2007.
Research shows that learning in preschool, from 3 to 5 years of age, results in the highest return on investment in education. Children with access to ECE are better prepared for further learning and more likely to go to, and complete, primary school. Yet in Cambodia, only 43 per cent of children aged 3 to 5 years are enrolled in ECE, while 68.5 per cent of children aged 5 years are enrolled in various forms of ECE.
There are lingering challenges in Cambodia in relation to education quality and school attendance. Many girls and boys are not reaching age-appropriate learning standards: at the primary level, nearly 25 per cent of children in Grade 3 cannot write a single word in a dictation test. A child who started Grade 1 in school year 2016/17 has a 51 per cent chance of reaching Grade 9, which is the end of lower secondary school. Key factors behind these challenges include: children being unprepared for school, lacking motivation to stay in school, violence against children in schools–with teachers being common perpetrators–financial constraints within households, and the poor quality of teaching and learning. This is compounded by high pupil-teacher ratios.