Why are boys leaving lower secondary school early in Cambodia?
Interviews with young people and their communities explore why more boys than girls are now leaving lower secondary school early in Cambodia
As more boys than girls are leaving lower secondary school early in Cambodia, in 2019 UNICEF sought to investigate the experiences of adolescent boys that are leading to their education being cut short. This research does not intend to signal a shift away from prioritizing girls’ education. Girls in Cambodia and elsewhere continue to face multiple and complex barriers to obtaining an education. However, ensuring equitable access to and success in school is a guiding principle of UNICEF, and there is a significant gap in the literature around understanding the challenges boys face. Patriarchal burdens on boys can often be the flip side of limits placed on girls.
The research was qualitative and sought to elevate the voices of young people. Adolescent boys and girls who were at risk of leaving lower secondary school, and adolescents who had recently left school early spoke to researchers in focus group discussions or individual interviews. Additional interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with a range of community members and school and government officials. Field work was conducted in the three provinces of Phnom Penh, Battambang and Kratie. This captured perspectives from urban and rural areas, indigenous ethnic minorities and those affected by migration.
The study intended to consider what programmatic and policy interventions could assist in combating boys’ low completion rates. In pursuit of this, the study conducted a literature review of current Cambodian and international understandings of the issue, and sought to identify examples of existing interventions targeted at keeping boys in school. The report includes a range of recommendations for government, education sector development partners and schools to consider as they work towards improving boys’ enrollment and success in Cambodian schools.