Education is very important in every country, because without it a country cannot develop. This is because countries are made up of people, and education aims to help them develop as capable individuals and responsible members of society. The Cambodian government has been working to establish an education system for all children to be able to participate in school and gain general knowledge to at least grade nine or until they complete high school. An essential component in Cambodia's education system is the nine years of compulsory education. Starting at age six, children typically go to primary school from age 6-11 years (grades 1 - 9), and secondary school (grades 10 - 12) at age 12-17 years (UNICEF, 2008). Nevertheless, compulsory education is not uniformly enforced in Cambodia. The school attendance rate for primary school for both boys and girls is around 85%, consequently followed by a significant drop to 28% of children attending secondary school (UNICEF, 2008). There are also significant issues with repetition in grade levels especially in the basic education grades.
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One reason that Cambodia's education system is weak is because schools for the compulsory grades of education are not accessible to everyone. Geographical factors are problematic, living in rural areas may result in children, girls especially, having less access to school, which has been found to result in the completion of schooling on average being only half of the years for rurally located students as those living in urban areas (World Bank, 2006).
School expenses can aggravate many families' financial burdens, and although enrollment fees have been abolished by government legislation, other types of informal and formal schooling fees including payment for uniforms, books, and other supplies have been increasingly demanded by schools and teacher (World Bank, 2006). According to data from Right to Education (2006), child education accounts for approximately two-thirds of the financial burden in their families, which would easily result in a child being withdrawn from school by their poor families to work. Additionally, some parents in Cambodia do not understand the long-term benefits obtained from schooling, they perceive the current available job opportunities which are low-skill and low-wage are worthier than continuing school. It further reflects another social circumstance of Cambodia which is lacking many high-skill and high-wage job opportunities in the labor market. Thus, a disincentive is created as a consequence of all these factors so that parents feel discouraged to send their children to go to school. An overwhelming number of child laborers are likely to be out of school. The pull of work is also a key determinate in children dropping out of school. The attraction of work for children of poor families, and the choice that children and parents make between work and education, are key determinants of school progression rates, especially as children move from primary to lower secondary, and on to upper secondary level.
The impairment to physical, mental, and social health at the critical stage of life has permanent effects on the quality of one's adult life. The overall consequence to society is even more permanent. In the long run, an under educated society cannot compete with a country that has a more skilled workforce and a society with higher technological standards. Thus in a global economy an under educated society has a lower national capacity to fight poverty, a situation which perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Social measures which focus on giving children opportunities to develop their knowledge, skills, physical, moral, and mental compatibilities are the means by which society can create better economic opportunities, heighten the capabilities of the future work force, and lessen the vulnerability of the population. Continuing education affords the citizens the necessary educational and technical skills which the market requires and contributes to the overall goal of facilitating economic growth through equitable access to the 9-year basic education and a quality and relevant post-basic education (Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training [MoLVT], 2009).
In light of the above comments which outline the broad context and some of the issues confronting school progression for many students, the proposed study will focus on the progression of poor grade nine students at high school X from grade nine to grade ten looking especially at some of the reasons or motivations for poor students to remain at school after completing their compulsory schooling.
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This study will attempt to describe the current situation on post-school aspirations and challenges experienced by poor grade nine students at high school X who are planning to take the National Examination. It will seek to identify some of the resilient behaviors and attitudes that poor children who completed grade nine at high school X exhibit in continuing beyond the compulsory years of schooling.
As in many countries in the region, cultural values in Cambodia tolerate, and even encourage child employment. Children's activities that contribute to family survival are often praised and the work they perform is seen as valuable experience for their future life. Indeed, work by children can be an essential part of the socialization process and a means for transmitting acquired skills from parent to child. Whilst viewed by a child's family as being necessary to family survival, it has a long term damaging effect on the student's educational and physical development. Poverty is the main reason why children become involved in working in Cambodia. In rural areas children are constricted by families to help in the farms; in urban areas children are encouraged or forced to get money (selling, begging, stealing, rubbish collecting, waitressing, and prostitution) to help parents earn a living (Department of Labor [DOL], 2007). Once a child leaves school to support their family, they will not have the same opportunities to acquire enough knowledge and skills they need to pursue further education which may allow them to obtain quality employment in the future. This action in itself then contributes to the poverty cycle in their families, and holds back economic growth of the entire country. Although some children still attend school, participation in work can lead to less time in school and lower levels of educational attainment (International Labor Organization [ILO]). All of these types of work would interfere with children's school achievement, and produce detrimental effects on their health.
This study specifically seeks to answer the following questions:
What post-school aspirations do poor grade nine students at high school X express when planning to take National Examination?
What challenges to achieving their aspirations do poor grade nine students at high school X identify?
Significance of the study
From this exploratory study, I will gain some valuable insights into the thinking and behaviors of poor students who are choosing to remain at school after grade nine. This study will provide a better understanding of the aspirations or hopes and the information will be useful for planning for future cohorts of grade nine students as efforts are made to increase senior secondary enrolment rates amongst this vulnerable group. This information may assist the school to develop strategies designed to support and encourage poor children continue their formal education.
The information will be collected from the small study conducted at one school which limits the generalizability of the findings. It will clearly be of value to the school in the study and may also provide some helpful insights into student positive choices to continue schooling after the compulsory years that can be further researched at a larger sample of schools.
Poor students: students who are receiving financial support from Non Government Organizations (NGOs).
Post-school: the time after students finished grade twelve or the time after they have ceased their formal learning.
Aspiration: the future desires or hopes of students.
Challenges: difficulties that some students face in continuing their formal education.
This chapter discusses literature reviewed as part of the process in developing the proposal. In collecting literature for my research, I have used books, articles and research reports from the Hun Sen Library of the RUPP, and I have accessed the websites of MoEYS, Right to Education, ILO, DOL, MoLVT, UNICEF, World Bank, ERIC, and e-journal collection at James Cook University. There are some difficulties in accessing to some relevant useful sources because of password protection. Moreover, many of the articles I have searched were secondary data sources, so it is sometimes difficult to cite or quote because some secondary sources did not provide detailed information.
The keywords used for identifying relevant literature were post-school, poor students, aspirations, challenges, and resilient behaviors.
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The proposed subheadings in the literature review showing the sequence of the review. The chapter will start with post-school aspirations of poor grade nine students planning to take National Examination, and identifying challenges to achieving their aspirations of poor grade nine students at high school X, and gain some of the resilient behaviors and attitudes that poor children who completed grade nine exhibits in continuing beyond the compulsory years of schooling.
Post-school aspirations of poor grade nine students planning to take the National Examination
According to a global survey of children's hopes, aspirations and fears, the voices of
6, 204 children from 47 countries were represented within this report. Through it, we get a taste of what children aged 10-12 aspire to, for themselves and their communities. We're reminded that children can think beyond themselves and consider how their world can be improved. We gained insight into their hopes, aspirations and fears. Celsia, 11 years old from Dominica & St Vincent, explained that she enjoys school so much that she dreams of being a teacher, but she cannot always get to school as she has a heart condition, she gets sick very often and have to visit the hospital. Rashia, 12, is from Uganda where 54% of children would like to become a doctor, nurse, dentist or health care worker. Panchma, 12, is from Cambodia where 28% of children are scared of violence and crime and 22% fear unfulfilled aspirations, such as not being able to complete school or find employment (Child Fund Alliance, 2012).
Resilience in children in poverty
This study makes a contribution to an understanding of factors that may be important in the development of resilience among children living in extreme poverty, a number for whom research on strengths and resilience has been under represented. Although strength-based interventions are sorely needed in responding to the challenges faced by low-income families and youths, the importance of also addressing the issues through public policy changes and communitywide intervention must be remembered (Buckner, 2003).
Resilient youths appear to be more adept in different facets of self-regulation than non-resilient youths, and use skills that may suit them well, whether in the pursuit of goal directed activities or in coping with stress. A host of internal and external factors may impact self-regulation skills then the resilience of youths. Self-regulation can be improved upon in individuals. The capacity to focus, to generate alternative solutions to problems, to be flexible in one's thinking are skills that children can learn and overlap with skills taught in social problem solving (Buckner, 2003).
Masten learned that children who succeeded in the face of adversity had more internal and external resources, particularly in the form of good thinking skills and effective parenting. Adversity did not seem to derail development unless key adaptive resources were weak, or impaired by the adversity itself. Resilient children had a great deal in common with other competent children who had no more than the normative level of stress in their lives. They were good problem solvers, able to learn and pay attention. They were close to adults in their lives who provided warmth, age-appropriate structure, and high expectations for them. They learned to follow the rules and, later, the laws of society. They were involved in activities at home, school, and in their communities. They developed close friendships and when the time came, positive romantic relationships. Not surprisingly, they had good self-esteem and felt effective (Masten, 2012).
In research on children, resilience generally refers to good outcomes in spite of serious threats to development. The standards by which parents, teachers, and community members judge how well a child is developing can vary, of course. Yet there is good agreement about the standards for doing well in society, even across very different cultures. These are often called developmental tasks, referring to the broad expectations we have for children of different ages. Thus, developmental tasks in toddlers would include learning to walk and talk and to obey simple instructions of parents. By elementary school age, we expect children to meet expectations for academic achievement, get along with other children, and follow the rules of classroom, home, and community. By secondary school, children are expected to meet achievement on passing the national examination. Successful youth are expected to graduate from high school and gain the education and skills needed for economic independence from their parents, to abide by the law, to have close friends and romantic relationships, and to begin to contribute to society. Resilient children and youth manage to succeed in all the ways we expect for children of their age, even though they have faced significant obstacles to success.
Identifying challenges to achieving their aspirations of poor grade nine students
The relationship and relevancy to students with learning difficulties; family, community and school practices that foster resiliency. Several important factors related to children' resiliency are age, social support, locus of control, competence, self-esteem, temperament, social maturity, need for achievement, past coping ability, family and community variables (Brackenreed, 2010). The development of resilience lies in relationship, beliefs and expectations, and willingness to share power. According to Bernard (as cited in Brackenreed, 2010) stated that schools should foster the ability to form relationships, problem solve, develop a sense of identity, plan and hope in their students by offering caring relationships, high expectations and opportunities for students to participate in the school. Thus, a common goal of teachers can be seen as to serve the public with respect, concern, courtesy, and responsiveness to the needs of the students, encouraging students to mine their talents and share their gifts with others, contributing to our society in meaningful ways and creating happy people.
Hopson defined school climate as the "quality and character of school life". This is the psychological impact of the organizational environment on children and adults with the school. It encompasses norms, goals, values, relationships, organizational structure, and methods of teaching and learning (Cohen & Geier, 2010). These school characteristics shape the experience of all individuals within the school and determine whether they feel supported, valued, respected, and safe.
According to Shields (1991) (as cited in Lacour, 2011) suggested that the students' learning is affected by three major factors: the school environment, the home or community environment, and the policies of the district and state. The school environment can encourage or stifle learning (Shields, 1991). Effective schools coordinate cross-curricular activities to provide a connected, meaningful curriculum. This effort requires collaboration among teachers and staff led by an effective leader to organize and maintain the effort.
To sum up, school climate is very important for children, especially classrooms in which students are given an opportunity to respond, an engaging cooperative learning environment, a participating role in setting goals, and a high expectation for student achievement. All of these characteristics help students develop a sense of belonging and involvement. These two characteristics help to reduce the feelings of alienation and disengagement. With that kind of connection in the school, students will have more of a protective shield against the adverse circumstances that life throws at them.
Family and community
According to Shields (1991) (as cited in Lacour, 2011) student achievement, particularly for at-risk students, is affected by the values and beliefs of the family and community. Some families and communities, particularly in poverty stricken areas, do not value or understand formal education. This leads to students who are unprepared for the school environment, and leads to misunderstandings regarding student actions and speech by teachers due to variations in norms and values. Effective instruction will allow students to use their own life experiences as a starting point for instruction while adapting instruction to the culture of the students. Teachers should encourage active participation in learning by all students in the classroom in order to encourage at-risk students. Schools must create a partnership with parents seeking to involve parents, particularly those of at-risk students, in the school process while providing tips to parents for assisting students in becoming academically successful.
According to A Resource Tool Kit (2011), the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) is focusing on the family to help foster positive attitudes toward education, which will give children a better chance at staying in school. Cambodia's Council for Social Development notes that people who live in an illiterate environment often relapse into illiteracy despite previous schooling and that keeping parents actively involved in learning presents children with the best possible opportunity at education (Tool Kit, 2011).
Children in Cambodia tend to be excluded from education due to parental illiteracy and poverty, gender bias, rural living, family migration, and health issues. The new non-formal education (NFE) strategies include programs intended to tackle these issues and improve literacy among "out-of-school" youth and adults, develop core life management skills and work competencies, and improve parenting skills (Tool Kit, 2011). Participation in NFE programs allows adolescents to reenter the formal education system or to obtain equivalency certifications. Additionally, the Education For All (EFA) plan recognizes the value of family and community involvement and focuses on improving literacy within families to strengthen "cognitive, social and physical development of young children." (Tool Kit, 2011).
Family and community oriented education programs are aggressively targeting poverty by defeating ignorance. While NFE strategies are working to keep children in school, EFA formal basic education strategies are focusing on quality by implementing extensive teacher training programs that include life skills curriculum and statewide minimum standards assessed by annual examinations (Tool Kit, 2011).
In conclusion, partnerships among the school, family, and community increase students' chances of success by removing some of the stressors and systemic barriers to academic and personal success, especially for poor students. Some of these knowledge and skill areas would be better explored in greater depth in a course focusing on school-family-community partnerships, collaboration, consultation, and school restructuring.
This chapter describes the sampling methods and data collection methods planned to conduct this small study. It includes a description of some limitations of the various methods and a discussion of ethical issues that need to be addressed to conduct the research.
Data Collection Method
The research proposed involves data collection occurring in high school X. This study is conducted using qualitative research methods through one on one interview. In order to ensure a wide collection of student views, I am aiming for 20% of poor grade nine students participating in an interview to collect more specific information about their family living condition and their post-school aspirations.
The post-school aspirations of poor grade nine students at high school X who express the intention to take the National Examination, and identifying challenges to achieving those aspirations of the poor grade nine students at high school X, will be explored in the individual interview where a variety of responses are expected and themes or patterns of responses will be looked for. Furthermore, in this study I will also conduct interviews with some teachers who teach the sample students, especially Mathematics and Khmer literature teachers who have more teaching times in the class, giving them longer exposure to individual students and being more likely to know clearly about these students' attitudes.
Face to face interviews to students
The strengths of face-to-face interview (one on one interview) is that the data collected can be rich and because the interviewer is present and able to respond to an individual's answers there is scope for asking follow up questions to explore ideas thoughts and feeling in a deeper way than is possible in a pen and paper survey (Anderson, 2005).
Some possible limitations of using face-to-face interviews to collect data can be that people might say things to please the interviewer or tell the interviewer what they think the interviewer wants to hear, rather than speak truthfully (Anderson, 2005). Another possible limitation is that this method of collecting data relies on skilled interviewers in the process being able to establish a good relationship quickly with the respondent and generate honest responses (Anderson, 2005). There may also be logistical difficulties in arranging locations or times for interviews; and analysis is time consuming due to the need for transcriptions as part of the analysis (Anderson, 2005).
Face to face interviews to teachers
The strengths of face-to-face interview to teachers is that the data collected can be rich and helpful because the interviewer can get more specific information about the sample students' actual behavior through their teachers' observation in the every-day class of how things look (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006). Collecting details from teachers' observations are one of the most appropriate and effective approaches because it helps a researcher to collect much more information without physically needing to be present (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2009). What is obtained from teachers' observation is firsthand and open-ended information because the participants are observed at the research site (Creswell, 2005).
The limitations of the interviews to collect data from these two subject teachers is not the possibility that some students may behave appropriately in these two subjects, but they may behave inappropriately in others subjects. On the other hand, some of them may not behave well in the classroom of these two subjects, but they may be well behaved in others subject. Thus, the data from interviewing teachers through their observations would not be representative of how the participants normally behave but more a description from the individual teacher's point of view (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006).
Convenience sampling is the sampling method selected for this study because participants study at high school X where researcher has been working, so they are readily available and accessible and will have volunteered to participate in this study. A limitation of this kind of sampling method is very small numbers of population are involved, so the result of study cannot be generalized to the entire population (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2009).
This sample in this proposed study is poor grade nine students who are financially supported by different organizations to remain in school and they are enrolled in high school X. The list of possible participants will be provided by the school principal who has given permission for the study to be conducted.
The students on the list will be spoken to in a group that will meet when the students have finished their lessons for the day. In the meeting I will explain the study I am doing and ask them to participate in a one on one interview with me. I will explain that they are free to choose not to participate or to participate. I will distribute a printed invitation to each student which they can write their name on and drop in to a box that I have placed in the school library. Using this approach I am trying to reduce any feeling that a student may have that they have to participate (co-ercion). I will collect any completed cards from the box in the library and contact the individual students to make a suitable time to meet for an interview. If the student has indicated that they would like to be interviewed with a friend I will arrange a time that suits all involved.
I am aiming for a sample size of 20% poor grade nine students, the final size will be dependent on the numbers of students who volunteer to meet with me. If more than 20% students have volunteered I will selected the first 20 names I withdraw from the box to be interviewed.
The interviews will be conducted in a quiet classroom at a time that is suitable to the students and the interviews will be audio recorded, with the students consent, so that I can transcribe the interview for latter analysis.
The researcher will get formal approval from the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) and official permission from the principal of high school X and student participants prior to conducting this study (Kemmis & Mc Taggaart, 1992). Moreover, the researcher will be honest and open to inform each participant about natures and purposes of the research. All the participants will be invited to participate willingly and voluntarily without being forced or tricked, and they will have a right to discontinue at any time in this research. In addition, the researcher will show great respect for the participants' privacy and time. For instance, the interviews will not be conducted during their learning times but in their break times. Besides, the researcher will be glade and will not hesitate to clarify any questions which may arise. Also, the researcher will keep all the participants' names confidential. Particularly, the participants mentioned in interviews will be addressed as Student 1, Student 2, Student 3, and so on. Lastly, the research will ask for special permission from the students and teachers being interviewed to record their voices (Anderson & Arsenault, 1998).