How did John Dewey influence on childrens learning

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Cambodia was known as Khmer Kingdom, which was one of the "most powerful" states in South East Asia. (Ayres, 2000, p.1). However, Cambodia has shrunk and deteriorated since the collapse of "Khmer Empire." (Duggan, 1996, p.363)

The civil war has jeopardized the social and economic development of Cambodia. Most of the social structures and rural infrastructures were completely destroyed during Khmer Rouge, especially in the educational sector, which is one of the most important for developing the country.

The education system has changed dramatically since the French colony from 1968 to 1953, in which education started in the pagodas "combined modern and traditional pattern ...a small group of children entered the French school system." ( Duggan, 1996, p.363).

Cambodia was granted full independence in 1953 (Ibid). Therefore, Prince Sihanouk was very interested in "educational sector", and he decided to adopt 20 percent of the national budget in order to expand the educational system in Cambodia, however, his decision was bitterly criticized by other people for not providing the educational equity, because the rural children did not receive any educational system from the Prince. He just mainly focused on the urban children. (Duggan, 1996, p.364)

Lon Nol came to power in 1970, he started cambodianizing by encouraging students to participate in fighting against "the national enemy" [Vietnamese]. Most of the students were involved in the army, so they were not able to attend schools, and there were not enough teaching materials for the teachers in the classrooms.(Ayres, 2000, pp.76-80)

April 17, 1975 Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh and abolished all social structures and some schools were eradicated and others were changed into prisons, workshops, etc., Children were not allowed to study. A Ministry of Education really "existed", but did not work actively and there were several textbooks were produced to "guide teachers" (Ayres, 2000, pp. 109-110). Moreover, Ayres (2000) wrote that "the educational crisis in Cambodia between March 1970 and April 1975 was a function of the material and human destruction generated by a nation at war. (p.68)

This research will focus on the following questions:

1. What are some of the current problems in education in Cambodia?

2. What is the role of the teacher and methods of instruction in Cambodia?

3. What is John Dewey's perspective on the role of the teacher and methods of instruction?

4. What contributions Dewey's would be useful in developing the role of the teacher and methods of instruction in Cambodia?

1. The current issues in education in Cambodia.

The new government was elected under the supervision and support of the United Nations (UN) which assisted in running a free and fair election in Cambodia in 1993. The democracy and free market have been exercised in Cambodia since then. The foreign investors and international organizations, namely the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank (WB) and other Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) began to operate their projects in educational sector in Cambodia. (Duggan 1996, p.362).

Although there have been considerable changes recently, the educational system has not reached an international goals by 2015 yet, because the number of "drop-out and repetition" in primary school is still high. The "repetition rates" in primary dropped from 26.3 percent to 10.2 percent between 1998 and 2005. In addition, drop-out rates in primary school is less than in secondary school. (MoEYS, 2008, p.8)

Noticeably, the quality of education service provided for both in primary and lower secondary levels is still in a bad condition caused by the lack of resources, poorly-trained teachers and "principals"...poor controlling system, teaching and learning materials and irresponsibility from the district and provincial principals.(World Bank, 2008, p.11)

Furthermore, the survey which was conducted by the CSES in 2004, based on the question "What are the major problems with schooling in this village?" reported that there were three main problems:

The living standard of teachers which means that teacher's salary is still low that cannot afford to buy anything.

Poor infrastructure because the schools are in a bad condition. For example, there are not enough chairs and tables for the students to sit and learn.

The location of the schools is not close enough for the students to walk from their home.

The collected data provided by EMIS in 2004 detailed that 69 percent of primary school teachers had received a degree from lower secondary school (grade 9), and there was only 7 percent of the teachers who finished the primary school. Besides, there was 24 percent of primary teachers had completed the upper secondary school. (MoEYS, 2008, p. 20)

Therefore, the quality of education in Cambodia needs improving. Thus the Royal Government of Cambodia has expanded national budget from 0.9 percent in 1997 to 1.5 percent in 2006. (MoEYS & World Bank. June 2008, p.59) .Also, the government has promised to increase salary for all teachers from 15 percent to 20 percent every year. (MoEYS & World Bank: June 2008, pp.59-62)

2.1. The role of the teacher in Cambodia

The student's learning progress is mainly based on the teacher's performance in the classroom. Thus the teacher act as the model or sample for the students to acquire knowledge, and teachers must be committed to time and efforts in order to instruct and motivate students to achieve their learning objectives. Teachers have to spend more time beside the office working hour to prepare lesson plans, correct homework and give a social and friendly atmosphere to the students in the classroom in order to develop their learning ability. (World Bank, 2008, p.71)

2.2. The methods of instruction in Cambodia

The traditional teaching style, was totally based on the teacher "frontal and rote learning", has applied in the Cambodian classroom for many years. But in 2005, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) accepted the new educational theory, which has applied in European and American classrooms, "The Principles of Child Friendly Schooling "and exercised it Cambodia. These principles are very useful for Cambodian students because it focuses on the child's freedom, which creates a social and friendly environment for the pupils to do a variety of activities in the classrooms. Moreover, it really helps students learn things through their own experiences. (MoEYS & World Bank. June, 2008, pp. 71-72)

On the other hand, in 2002 the Government of Cambodia passed a new law related 'Early Childhood Education and Care (ECCE)'. This law focuses on the child who aged 3 to 8. There are three categories of the programs: First, the Royal Government of Cambodia is responsible for controlling pre-school program. Second, the responsibility comes from the community and the last one is the parent's responsibility.

The main purpose of the program is to develop not only the children's mind but also the physical body and the program is under the Department of Early Childhood Education, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. (UNESCO, 2006. pp.5-6)

3. What is John Dewey's perspective on the role of the teacher and methods of instruction?

The man who has changed the educational system from traditional style (authoritarian classroom) to modern style (democratic classroom) is John Dewey. He was known as American psychologist, philosopher, practical teacher and educational reformer, was born in Burlington, New England, Vermont in 1859 and died in 1952. He finished Bachelor degree in 1879 at Vermont University, continued his study in philosophy for a year and received PhD from Hopkins University. (Taneja. V.R. 2010, p.136). Moreover, he worked as a high school teacher at a "remote areas" in Pennsylvania. He was so curious in philosophy, so he started writing his philosophical essay called "Medical physical Assumption of Materialism." (Allen. C. 2005, Track: 139)

Beside teaching, Dewey opened his own school "University Elementary School". The most important idea of opening this school was to continue to research and experience in "new ideas and methods. The children who were under 15 years are permitted to register, and

teachers must have many years experience in teaching and the classes are not big, and there are around 10 pupils provided for each teacher. This school was to engage the pupils in social experience. For example, pupils learned how to "cook, sew, and weave."(Taneja, 2010, p.p.136-137)

Role of the teacher of Dewey

For Dewey, the role of the teacher "play vitally important role". A Deweyan teacher should be (encourage?) involved in the child's driving force and "interests" rather than the inculcation of knowledge (fixing ideas in mind by repetition)." Moreover, the role of the teacher is to pave the way for the students to experience the consequences in the real world. The other role is to assist the pupils in dealing with "contemporary conditions and experiences" and activities they have to confront daily. Child's freedom is the most significant of all. However, teacher's role is to "regulate and organize" it well.

The teacher should be aware of his own "responsibilities and power" to instruct the children to "acquire the skill and knowledge." In order to save time by not exercising "chalk and talk", teacher have to "observe, plan and encourage" students to learn. Deweyan teachers take a huge responsibility and big chance to provide the pupils with both in "democratic co-operation and the higher intellectual pursuits and the fullest aesthetic experience." (Taneja, 2010, pp.150-152)

Methods instruction of Dewey

According to Dewey, curriculum is not based upon fixed human knowledge, subdivided logically into subjects, and parts of subjects. The curriculum should set up round the child's activities and not subjects. Dewey refused to offer religious and moral education through lessons, but he chose to offer the practical experience. ((Taneja, 2010. p.p.150-152)

His contribution and influence

Dewey's curriculum and methods of teaching have applied not only in the American classrooms but also in the world's classroom including Cambodia. Dewey had changed the traditional education system into democratic education system by accepting child-centered, which focused attentively on the freedom of the child in the classroom.


After Khmer Rouge collapsed in January 7, 1979, the new government was installed by the Vietnamese government. Educational system was being restored. However, the Phnom Penh government has estimated that 75 percent of teachers, 96 percent of University students and 67 percent of all primary and secondary school students were murdered. (Beveniste, World Bank, 2008.p.8)

Ayres, (200) wrote that in 1979, education was in a "severe crisis" because there were no settled administrative offices no "curricular", teaching materials were not enough and teaching staff is not qualified. Mr. Chan Ven was appointed as the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports with a team of Vietnamese advisers to plan the "rehabilitation" of Cambodian educational system. Vietnamese government started supporting both the "provincial and national levels". Therefore, the Vietnamese was able to hire teachers which were "virtually picked up from the streets and village pathway." ( p p.128-130)

According to Duggan (1996) in Phnom Penh itself, there were three Vietnamese advisers for every Cambodian official, ten Vietnamese soldiers for every Cambodian one. (p.366)

The number of schools has increased rapidly since the 1980's, however, the government of Phnom Penh still faces the big problems running proper educational system because most of teachers are not well-trained and school curricular is not standardized. For instance, "farmers, artisans and menial workers" were chosen to teachers.

Therefore, the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports and other international organizations (UNESCO, UNICEF and World Bank) have worked co-operatively to develop the educational sector in order to achieve the "Cambodian Millennium Development Goals" (CMDG). Moreover, in 2005 Ministry of Education developed national plan of action to reach the goals of educational for all (EFA) by 2015 to ensure that Cambodian children and youths have an equal opportunity to access education. (pp.6-8)

In 2004, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports accepted a new program which is called "Child Friendly Schools program" focused on primary level.(Ibid) This educational theory might have been affected by the American educational reformer Dewey because his teaching methods and the role of the teacher is to facilitate and motivate the pupils to learn new things through their own freedom and experience.


Name: YIM SOPHEAK Date: January 31, 2011

I prepared the following assignment by myself and only with the help of the literature mentioned in the references. I did not use other literature to write my assignment. I know that plagiarism is a serious offence and I am totally aware of the negative consequences.