Cambodia Suffered The Effects Of Civil War Education Essay

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       Cambodia had, for a long time, suffered the effects of civil war which ruined its economy and the education sector (Duggan, 1996; UNESCO, 1999). During the Khmer Rouge Period (KRP), the war devastated the country and the state of the nation in 1979 was described as:

The county … had no currency, no markets, no financial institutions and virtually no industry. There was no public transport system; no trains ran and the roads were damaged and unrepaired. There was no postal system, no telephones and virtually no electricity, clean water, sanitation or education (Ayres, 2000, p. 451).

       Furthermore, the Cambodian educational infrastructure was almost destroyed and abandoned (Benveniste, Marshall, & Araujo, 2008). "The government estimated that 75percent of teachers, 96 percent of university students and 67 percent of all primary and secondary school pupils were killed when the KRP was power" (Clayton as cited in Benveniste, Marshall, & Araujo, 2008, p. 3). To revive to the education system as well as to rebuild the country, the ministry of Education tried very hard to make the education system work and meet the learning needs of children (UNESCO, 1999). As a result, in the late 1980's, the enrolment rates at the primary level significantly increased (Ayres as cited in Courtney, 2008; Duggan, 1996).

       In the early 1990s, in-service training programs were provided to teachers in order to improve their general teaching skills and financial supports from international institutions and external donors and NGOs were placed in educational innovation (Tan, 2008). From the last decade until the present, the Cambodian government has pushed education as a top priority for the purpose of gaining quality human resources for Cambodia, so effective education or effective teaching is necessarily needed (Hab & Em, 2003).

       The Ministry of Education (MoEYS) has determined the improvement in the quality of education in Cambodia through the reform efforts of the Education system, the school curriculum and the improved text books. In particular, MoEYS has strengthened the techniques of teaching and learning by applying student-centered methodologies at all grades and through teacher training (MoEYS, 2007a). MoEYS (as cited in Courtney, 2008) stated that in 2002 the student-centered teaching was introduced in much of the teacher development to develop education in Cambodia.

       The MoEYS and all levels of educators have concentrated on the improvement of the quality of Education, especially the quality of teaching and learning considered the main factor for improved learning outcomes of students (MoEYS, 2002a). The MoEYS had set out their goals and reformed curriculum including text books through a new educational system of 12 years (6+3+3) for the purpose of developing education sector and improving students' capacity. The old curriculum, designed in 1979, became out of date for today. Furthermore, to strengthen and improve the quality of education of students to respond to the aims of national education and general education, the student-centered teaching and learning approaches are required to be applied in teaching and learning process (MoEYS, 2004a). In order to make the new curriculum involve in developing students to live meaningfully and productively, the MoEYS therefore changed and reformed some important points of curriculum as outlined below:

Changing the old educational system from 10 years (4+3+3) to 11 years (5+3+3) and to 12 years (6+3+3)

Increasing gradually the number of class teaching hours to international standard

. 6 hours per day

. 34 hours per week

. 38 weeks per academic year

. 50 minutes per hour

Integrating foreign languages (English and French from grade 5)

Mainstreaming regulation, human rights, nonviolence, peace, hygiene, health, environment, tourism, computer, AIDS, life skills

Curriculum based on nationalism, humanism, regionism, universalism

Transmitting knowledge, skills, and attitudes through discussion, idea exchange, problem solving, cooperation by scientifically applying strategies to create advantages as good citizen

Applying the student-centered approaches in teaching

Balancing between learning, teaching, and evaluation

Providing an education to respond to the needs of free market economy and to the trends in world education (MoEYS, 2000; MoEYS, 2002a; MoEYS, 2004a; UNESCO, 1999)      

During the last decade of the previous century, teaching and learning by applying the student-centered approaches was a change from the long used teacher-centered approaches where the teacher is the central point of the classroom or at the front, discussing the whole lesson. Children listen and try to absorb what the teacher explained (Osher, Kelly, Tolani-Brown, Shors, & Chen, 2009). The teacher is viewed as the source of knowledge and students are passive recipients of the knowledge. The teacher talks and explains things and students passively listen to the teacher and memorize (MoEYS, 2000). In the teacher-centered approaches, students are provided a lot of knowledge, but they have less opportunity, nearly no opportunity, to apply what they have learned and get feedback. Students therefore have less satisfaction and do not have much involvement in their learning process (MoEYS, 2008).

       Student-centered learning is a style of teaching and learning that emphasizes the active participation of learners, especially their interests, questions, ideas and opinions (MoEYS, 2007b). The student-centered approaches get students to learn best from meaningful life experience, social interaction, and scientific experimentation (Pedersen & Liu, 2003). These approaches promote students' critical thinking and analyzing skills, provide more active student engagement with less teacher-guided lectures, and emphasize gaining knowledge and learning skills rather than memorizing facts. For learning to take place, students need to be actively engaged, doing research, discussing and reflecting, constructing understanding and meaning, but not passively receiving knowledge (MoEYS, 2008). The motto of these approaches is "Learning by doing". Furthermore, it is universally recognized that it makes learning become more effective (Morris, 1996). Applying student-centered approaches has been occurring in education in many countries in the world (MoEYS, 2008).

       Cambodia has been promoting the student-centered approaches since 1997, when the new curriculum and textbooks started to be reformed with the cooperation between the MoEYS and nongovernmental organizations (MoEYS, 2008). In order to build and improve the quality of children's education, student-centered approaches are officially used in teaching and learning to respond to the goal of the National Education and the goal of general education to successfully achieve the universalization and modernization in the new 12-year Education system (MoEYS, 2000). The purpose of applying the student-centered approaches in Cambodia is not different from those in many other countries which use these approaches in the teaching and learning. According to the explanation of the CDC (Curriculum Development Council) Guide to the Primary School Curriculum (1993), students learn faster and more effectively when they become active in their learning process, especially when they feel interested and committed to learning (Morris, 1996). In these approaches, students can improve their knowledge and memory by linking their new knowledge to their existing knowledge, and the experience of real life. More importantly, it helps teachers get involved and have good relationship with their students (MoEYS, 2008).

       Opportunities are provided to students in order to use knowledge, skills and attitudes through a variety of activities (MoEYS, 2008). Although the student-centered approaches are beneficial for learners who are considered as the main characters in the learning process and many countries try to implement the student-centered education, the changes have not occurred in one Upper Secondary School, named as Bee school, ranged from grade 7 to grade 12. Students are still likely to be traditional learners who don't experience the student-centered learning. It seems therefore to be worth to take a closer look on possible barriers in implementing the student-centered approaches in Bee school.

1.2 Problem Statement

       The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport encourages schools to apply the student-centered approaches in the National Curriculum. This is done in order to have improvement in the quality of education for students to respond to national education and strengthen the techniques of teaching and learning. Teaching programs for the national curriculum in every school must apply the student-centered approaches, have activities in and outside the classroom, have students learn both theory and practice, and provide opportunity to motivate and develop their creativity (MoEYS, 2004b). Teachers at both primary and secondary levels are being urged to apply the student-centered methods in teaching and learning process. Furthermore, all trainee teachers who study at Regional Teacher Training Colleges (RTTC) in Cambodia are provided with training on student-centered education before they become a qualified school teacher.

       To develop and strengthen the quality of teacher training, the MoEYS has cooperated with Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance (VVOB) since 2004. There was a program Agreement between the Ministry of Education and VVOB on the 20th August 2004. This project was called "Improvement of Mathematics and Applied Science teaching and learning in Primary Education" in Kampong Cham, Siem Reap and Otdar Meanchey. One of the objectives of this project was to focus on the Improvement of Primary Education and Teacher Training in these three provinces (MoEYS, 2007c). Another Agreement between the Ministry of Education and VVOB was signed in 5th September 2004 on the existing project mentioned earlier. The objective of this project was to improve the quality of Education in Lower Secondary Education in Cambodia. This project was on "Improvement of Mathematics and Physics Teaching and Learning in Lower Secondary Education" (MoEYS, 2007d). One outcome of this cooperation is a book about the student-centered approaches for teachers in order to have improvement in the quality of education, especially teaching and learning.

       These same approaches have been applied in Bee School since 1999. Teachers in Bee school were required to gradually and respectfully use the student-centered approaches in their teaching instead of traditional instruction. Presently (since 2008) Bee school is working in cooperation with the VVOB SEAL Project. Four science teachers are assigned to develop training materials for use with student-centered methodologies in science and actively participate in training on science content and science teaching methodology.

       As a teacher at one of the trial schools, I have observed that the implementation of the student-centered approaches has not been very successful. It does not appear to be used often in the classrooms of the trained teachers as well as VVOB untrained teachers. Most teachers at Bee school seem to use predominantly the teacher-centered method and less frequently apply the student-centered methods. 

1.3 Purpose of Study

       The purpose of this small study was to explore the experiences of some of the teachers who are receiving training as part of the VVOB SEAL program. What impact, if any, has the training had on their day to day work in the classroom. How do the teachers describe their understanding of the student-centered learning in the classroom context and what issues do they face as teachers piloting a new approach to teaching and learning.

       As an approach to teaching and learning, the student-centered approaches assume a teacher has the skills and commitment to using these approaches. It assumes the teacher understands the theories of learning that have informed the strategies being adopted and that they are acting as an informed professional rather than a trained monkey. It also assumes that the teacher has access to appropriate resources as well as practical support from their school and the ministry.

1. 4 Significance of the Study

       I have been unable to locate research in Cambodia that has attempted to find out if teachers use the student-centered approaches in their teaching and what kind of hindrances to applying these approaches in the teaching. Since the student-centered approaches are important for effective teaching and learning and the Cambodian government and NGOs have committed resources to the improvement and implementation of these new philosophically different approaches to teaching and learning, it seems crucial to undertake such a study.

       Furthermore, the findings of this study will be of value for schools, as well as NGOs and the ministry of Education and highlight areas where they may need to be more responsive to the actual needs of the teachers in the process of implementing new teaching and learning approaches in Cambodian schools.

1.5 Research Questions

       The study has focused on the implementation of the student-centered approaches by a sample of VVOB trained teachers and a sample of teachers who are not directly participating in VVOB training but who do receive peer teaching on use of the method. The key research questions were:

What are the experiences of these two sample groups of teachers of this policy's implementation?

How do the sampled teachers in the Bee School perceive the student-centered approaches?

What factors have hindered some high school teachers from implementing the student-centered approaches in their classroom?

What do some high school teachers propose to assist them implement the student-centered approaches in their classroom?

1.6 Structure of the Paper

       The following chapter discusses the international and national literature that was identified for the theoretical relevance to the study. Chapter 3 describes the methods adopted and the decisions made for collection of the data which is analyzed and discussed in Chapter 4. The concluding chapter summarizes the key findings of the study as well as some of the study's limitations.  Several areas for further study have been identified and described in this final chapter.

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