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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2016 Cambodia: Evaluation of Community Preschool Modality in Cambodia

Author: Fabrice Hénard, Leslie Diamond, Estelle Roesch, Sok Sovannarith,Mario Fernández Hernández, Carole Marks, Sabine Becker-Thierry

Executive summary

With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System (GEROS)". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation  reports. The quality rating scale for evaluation reports is as follows:  “Highly Satisfactory”, “Satisfactory”, “Fair” or “Unsatisfactory”. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 4’ of the report, and the executive feedback summary labelled as 'Part 5'.


This independent evaluation sought to assess the contribution of community preschool (CPS) to early childhood development in Cambodia. The evaluation was commissioned by UNICEF Cambodia, in conjunction with MOI and MOEYS in April 2015. The CPS model is at a critical juncture and the purpose of this evaluation was to provide evidence that will help both the Government of Cambodia and UNICEF refocus, redevelop and improve the CPS experience and inform UNICEF’s 2016–2018 Country Programme’s support strategies for early childhood development (ECD).


A mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect data (mixed-methods approach). The evaluation matrix included 18 evaluation questions covering the five evaluation criteria of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) – relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability – set forth in the Terms of Reference (TOR) and UNICEF’s guiding principles on equity, gender equality and human rights. During data collection, the evaluation team visited 101 CPSs over three geographical areas (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Kampong Cham) to observe classes, conducted 30 semi-structured key informant interviews with various stakeholders (representing some 150 community members as many were interviewed in groups), carried out focus group discussions with more than 200 people (i.e., teachers, parents) and used a life story approach to ask 30 parents or caregivers about their opinions on CPS. Moreover, in-depth research was carried out to gain an understanding of Cambodia’s political system, administrative divisions and major institutions involved in education, as well as which donors and NGOs have a stake in this policy area.

Triangulation involved comparing findings between several sources (at least three) as well as cross-checking evidence from interviews and documentation review. Ethical considerations were taken into account in terms of the design and  implementation of the evaluation.

The major methodological limitations of this evaluation included the lack of a theory of change (TOC) for the CPS modality and the unavailability of relevant baseline, midline or end-line data. Thus, the impact of the CPS modality could not be accurately measured in terms of developmental outcomes and children’s school readiness. Instead, the effects of CPS are examined with causal reasons for achievements and shortfalls.

Findings and Conclusions:

The most CPSs address the needs of children aged 3 to 5 in terms of access and enrollment to quality ECE. In 60 per cent of the CPSs, commune council and CCWC representatives,as well as teachers, try to encourage parents to enrol and send their children to preschool under all circumstances.

Evidence from focus group discussions as well as class observations suggests a clear correlation between the quality of the premises, the teaching material, the teachers’ motivation and parental recognition of the value of CPS.Many CPS settings are of poor quality and teaching material is underutilized. Evidence suggests that most teachers have a basic understanding of child-centred and active learning pedagogies despite vast disparities among communes.

The UNICEF has provided support to teachers who highly value the quality of training and teaching materials. However, most teachers lack the appropriate knowledge and skills to enforce the ECCD concept, which is relatively new to them. POEs and DOEs provide minimal help as they lack of time and do not regularly supervise the CPS teachers.

The recognition of CPSs as a regular model for ECCD is a major factor to ensure sustainability. Despite UNICEF support, the issue of funding ECCD and CPS, the unstable context of D&D, the sharing of responsibilities between MOI and MOEYS, as well as the low level of parental engagement in CPS, threaten the sustainability of the CPS modality.

It found little evidence on impacts of CPS on children. The most robust evidence collected shows that overall children progressed on educational and social skills. The absence of children’s performance tests prevents Cambodian authorities and UNICEF from having a more precise and reliable picture of the impact of UNICEF support and country engagement in ECCD and CPS in particular.


Recommendations are organized around three overarching tracks of improvement. These are:

  • Involve high-level authorities to strengthen implementation of the ECCD National Action Plan, embedding crosssectoral programming and developing a sustainable services and funding model for ECD;
  • Monitor and support commune councils in the process of implementing the D&D reforms and assist UNICEF in better targeting its interventions;
  • Explore field intervention and pilot effective CPS in the most disadvantaged areas by refocusing on a limited number of CPSs, thus better reaching the most vulnerable children, including children with disability, along with UNICEF's mandate.

Lessons Learned:

The main lessons to be learnt:

  • Assigning responsibilities: The roles and responsibilities from the national to local levels, via the mid-level need to be clearly defined and operational for the CPS modality functioning. Regardless of how well the CPS is designed, implementation is dependent on the community level and lacks sufficient technical support and feedback or monitoring loops allowing for adjustments and improvements.  
  • Roles of parents and communities: Parent and community involvement is essential for lobbying and for pressuring local authorities to place early childhood at the centre of social policies. So supporting the engagement of parents and community members is likely to help commune councils better consider CPS in their policies.
  • Teacher support system: To avoid isolation of CPS teachers, mentoring, in-service training and network support should be encouraged beyond occasional trainings. This would foster a sense of community and improve the cross-sharing and cross-fertilization of good practices.
  • Children’s results assessment: The assessment of preschool children’s results offers precious feedback for POEs and DOEs as well as UNICEF. A robust tool, easily manageable by teachers and under the supervision of the POE and DOE is necessary to measure results. The holistic approach of early childhood requires the measurement of these multiple, interconnected aspects. 
  • Holistic approach to ECD: Viewing education, health, hygiene and nutrition as key levers for successful development of children aged 3 to 5 is the ideal model for ECD.
  • Monitoring systems: It is worth to consider the introduction of a monitoring assistance system managed by POEs and DOEs that are more operational on the ground, along with commune councils and NGOs operating in early childhood. Providing guidelines to commune councils is not sufficient as commune members are new in the decision-making process and early childhood is not yet a priority in all communes.


Full report in PDF

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Report information




Emergencies; Education; ECD


Learning Avenue

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) and Ministry of Interior (MoI)


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