Improving the Education Quality

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To improve education quality and accessibility is to strengthen schooling and build a strong relation with family. A Cambodian ancestors' proverb states that "Parents are primarily the first teacher, while the teachers at school are the second". Parents basically regard students as children who live with, are cared for by, and require the long-life care of the family. Their lives are more likely to be influenced by their family. In today, young Cambodian adults learn through modelling especially from older adults and so they need to act as a good role model (Mansfield, 2008). In the mean time, Cambodian youth population is boomed. Among Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, Cambodia shows the highest growth in labour force during 2000-2006.

Figure 1: Growth in labour force, 2000-2006, ASEAN countriesD:\Documents and Settings\PUTHITEACHNOLOGY\Desktop\IMG_0892.JPG

Figure 1. Over this period Cambodian labour force grew by 53% which is the most among other regional neighbour countries. Adapted from YEP report 2008: data found by Labour and Social Trends in ASEAN 2007, Integration, Challenges and Opportunities, Bankok, ILO, 2007, p. 77.

The Youth Employment and Social Dialogue project (YEP) final report (2008) has shown that 83% of high school students' decision for continuing study after high school is related to family ties; 47% family were unable to support, 32% want to help family, and 4% had no family encouragement. Surprisingly in the YEP study , more males (35%) reported they were more likely to help their family than females (30%), while 5% of females faced discouragement from their family compare to male (4%). More students were likely to spend some time after high school working to earn money so they then continued their studies at universities or vocational schools.

The scholars and researchers have reported different findings of decision-making skills among high school students or students who are at college. Based on some studies, Crites (1969 declared that there 30% of students are do not make the decision when they study at high school or college years, but Fottler and Bain found only 18 % among senior high school in Alabama (1980). However, Marr's longitudinal study (1965) reported that 50% make subject choices until about the age 21. Surprisingly, Hollender had done another study and shown that students' career decision-making varied according to their intellectual characteristics (as cited in Herr, Cramer, & Niles, 2004). He has also reported that the decidedness between boy and girls were similar from lower quartile to the highest, but the intellectual capacity was what differentiated career decidedness (1974). Based on the research cited above, high school students assumedly need more career guidance and availability of career information. Hence, career development programs have been increasingly developing and eventually use at a range of levels from primary school level to university level. Career education programs are very popular and widely used in secondary schools and university levels across the developed world. A near neighbour, Thailand incorporates career education in its national high school curriculum.

In Cambodia, the education system and policies have been established and renewed from time to time by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS). Based on the Education for All National Plan2003-2015, the Curriculum Development Policy has been established in 2004 for the school years 2005-2009. In the meantime, the policy and completed text books were sent and used in schools until 2009. This policy's stated aims are to "develop fully the talents and capacities of all students in order that they become able people, with parallel and balanced intellectual, spiritual, mental and physical growth and development…"(2004, p. 4). Some schools; mostly with the support of development partners, have set some appropriate life-skills, labour information centers, and career preparation programs within the school's extra activities or life-skill programs. Despite these initiatives, such programs are not spreading out country wide and the school resources are not well equipped and there is a lack of commitment.

Since 2009 the National Employment Agency (NEA) was established under the jurisdiction of the National Training Board and in the responsibility of the office of the Council Ministers, and the organization started building Job Centers in different provinces throughout the country. These centers were established aligning with the aims of each of NEA's job centre functions of providing labor market service to job seekers, employers, and training providers. Each job center has the role of being a central place for "all market demand-and-supply information" (p. iii) for other related stakeholders. There are currently five NEA centers in five provinces. The director of the Siem Reap Job Center was asked and he insisted that he does not know that there is the existing Curriculum Development Policy within schools which students are obliged to decide subject choice. This comment made in the course of an informal interview shows a lack of linkage and coordination between job centers and schools or education policy.

Table 2: Grade 11-12 curriculum 2005-2009

COMPULSARY Hours taught per week




Must choose one

English 4 hours

French 4 hours


Must choose one

Basic 4 hours

Advanced 8 hours

ELECTIVE S Each subject is taught for 4 hours per week


May choose none, one or two or three




Earth and Environmental Studies


May choose none, one or two or three

Morals/ Civics





May choose none, one or two or three


Accounting/Business Management

Local Vocational Technical Subjects


Art Education (and other subjects)

Students who choose Math (Basic) must choose 4 subjects from the Electives

Total 16h + (4 x 4) = 32 hours per week

Students who choose Math (Advanced) must choose 3 subjects from Electives

Total 20h + (3 x 4) = 32 hours per week

Note. This is the grade 11 and 12 curriculum of Policy for Curriculum Development, 2005-2009, which was published in December 2004 by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. EVEP = Elective Vocational Education Program.

The YEP Project (2008) regarded itself as the first research survey to analyse in-depth linkage between youth and job-market in Cambodia. Its report showed that 67% of Cambodian high school students wanted to continue their studies for higher education at universities and vocational training schools, while another 30% wanted to find a job after graduating high school. Scholarship is one of students' choices for going to study at higher education. There are 88% of males and 90% of females find job first and then study. This is a way that most students do in order to save money for their further studies at higher education especially for low socio-economic students.

Problem Statement

Career education or development programs are widely used over the world, but it is not provided formally in Cambodian schools at any level. To date, however, the Cambodian government has been working very hard with limited resources and established more standard curriculums and agencies; the Curriculum Development Policy, Job Center and Local Life Skill programs. However, there is no clear explanation or appropriate local life-skill program have been widely used and practiced at high school in order to provide students well-preparation for the decision and future career. What does the school do to provide career education? What are those related programs? How do those activities respond to the aims of the new curriculum policy?

Research Questions

This study explores the career education or core job related skills in one Cambodian high school through the experiences of some secondary school students. This research will be conducted in order to explore the questions below;

1. How does high school X do to assist students in making career and subject choices?

2. How do senior school teachers at high school X do to prepare students for their life after the grade 12 examination?


One objective in this study is to provide useful resources for further studies in the area of career development and career education in Cambodian schools. Moreover, the exploration of career education and current job related skills programs which relate to the senior school students' decision-making and career preparation is another anticipated objective. The findings can help government, educators, researchers or scholars, and all related stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding in how and what should they do to implement and set up effective programs for senior school students and to reduce career blur and mismatch.

Chapter Two

Literature Review

In this chapter, some theories and research findings will be reviewed and argued in order to develop the conceptual framework (Hean, 2011) in both national and international context. By using the different types of searching and finding such as; google scholar, NEA' website, MoEYS' website, James Cook University's website, and some others, selective theories and concepts have been used and applied in this topic literature. The key words were used to search for more literatures and research findings are; senior school, senior school students, career, career education, and career guidance and counselling.

Historical and Contemporary Cambodian Education

Historical background.

In the past few decades, the Cambodian education system has historically been through three lines of movement trends. It was well developed during 1960s-1970s, but was then mostly destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime. It has temporarily been suffering after the decades of civil wars. The current trend is "market-oriented nature of contemporary education system is struggling to overcome the entrenched practices and ideologies of its socialists past" (Ayres, 2000, pp. 441-442). In the mean time, Ayres argued the lack of drawing upon the broader historical and cultural context. Coombs wrote that the education was "the key to unlock the door to modernization" (as cited in Ayres, 200, p. 443) in educational crisis. Coombs suggested the "modernization of educational management, teacher, learning process, and priority targets" (p. 443) for educational leaders.


One of the main purposes of education is to create a workforce with skilled people among citizens for any economic situation they enter in placement (UNDP, 2011). Thus, the education sector is usually a priority of the government. Some educational policies have been renewed during the periods of change; globalization, regionalization and localization. Surprisingly, one of the policies that the Cambodian government has recently written the Curriculum Development Policy which was established in 2004 for the first period of 2005-2009. The implementation of the policy was delayed until 2009. One of this policy aims is to build up appropriate skills among new generation or citizens. The reality is visually blurred. However, it is just something at the start.

Cambodian education system.

The general education system in Cambodia has changed several times over the last few decades. The contemporary system is for 12 years; grade 1 to grade 12, however, preschool and kindergarten are considered as in Early Childhood program. Other than in the last two years which are grade 11 and 12, there is a local life-skill program included in the schooling outline. Local life skills program are meant to be included in the levels of basic education (grade 1 - 9) and grade 10. In conjunction with development partners, the Cambodian government has gradually been trying to standardize and modernize the system and policies along the way.

Terms of Career and Its Definition

Background of career.

To realize the students' needs, labour-market demand or requirements, and reduce the mismatch between graduates and the skills required in the workplace many countries around the world and especially in the developed countries, have tried to set up more services to serve students and prepare students to make informed decisions about their school subject choices and further study options Since then "Career education or career development program" have been developed and implemented by governments, institutions, educators and schools.

The first publication in the area of career planning ,in 1909, was published by Parson's and was titled "Choosing Your Vocation", since then many other authors started developing and evolving both theories and practical researches. However, several of them have been eventually used by scholars and researchers. Those are the theories of Holland (1997), Super (1990), Lofquist and Dawis (Dawis, 1996; Lofquist&Dawis, 1991), Krumboltz (Mtchell&Krumblotz; 1990, 1996), and Gottfredson (1981, 1996). Theories have their limitations, for example, Astin (1984) and Hackett and Betz (1981) criticized the theory of Super's for having its primary focus on whites. Theories are useful however because they offer a way of looking at something that may not be seen otherwise. Some theories have continued to develop and change over time, for example, the work of Super (as cited in Lee & Duane, 2000) and their practical application is constantly being tested and developed in schools, organisations and businesses.

Figure 2: Super's Life-Career Rainbow: Six Life Roles in Schematic Life SpaceD:\Documents and Settings\PUTHITEACHNOLOGY\Desktop\IMG_0896.JPG

Figure 2. A life-space, life-span approach to career development which is defined by Super (1980). Adapted from Chapter 2: Theories of Career Choice and Development in Career Information, Career Counselling, and Career Development by Isaacson and Brown 2000, ED5853: Work, Leisure and Lifeskills Reading Guide 2006, p. 35. Produced by James Cook University.

Career is derived from the Latin term meaning "pathway" (Jalongo, 1989, p. 108). There are many different terms have been derived and used based on the term of career such as career education, career development, career choice, career information, career counseling, career guidance, career center and career development intervention. Each of them is currently used differently in different countries, interchangeably, is sometimes confused.


The definitions of those terms have been compiled from different resources and authors as cited in Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2009). The very first theory of career was relative directly to the work. For years, broader definitions of career have been developed and rewritten by different scholars, researchers, and authors. The broader definition regards career as the different life roles people play and knowledge among people. One of the latest definitions advocating for the term career described career as a lifestyle concept. Consequently, Super (1976) examined career as the course of events constituting a life, while Herr et al. (2004) states career is the total constellation of roles played over the course of a life time.

Career development.

Career development is another term extended from the very first term of career which Herr et al. (2004) refers to the lifelong psychological and behavioural processes as well as contextual influences shaping one's career over the life span. Career development involves the person's creation of a career pattern, decision-making style, integration of life roles, values expression, and life-role self-concepts (as cited in Niles et al., 2009).

Career development intervention.

Career development interventions, Spoke defines, is broadly defined as in all involvement of activities that encourage people to gain broader knowledge of career development tasks (1991). For instance, those can be activities that help to develop people the self-awareness and awareness of occupation, decision-making skills, searching for jobs, the adjustment for choices.

Career counselling.

Career counselling is the program, involvement, and relationship that lead by at least a professional counsellor. It runs through formal ways toward clients to cope the effective choice of career. A career counsellor has a responsibility to find ways to consult and cope clients' career concern, evaluate the progress, and support.

Career education.

Career education is the strategic attempt to shape the career development of people in all ages, especially students and adults by focusing on what they have occupied and experienced previously toward future career decision (Isaacson & Brown, 2000). Similarly, Hoyt (1984) provide in-depth argument on career education and career guidance. In the meantime, the authors regard career guidance concepts as the ingredients to the career education ones. Eventually, Hoyt conceptualizes the term of career education and career guidance and in practical implementation as (pp. 150-151);

Career education (career guidance) is fundamentally rooted in the process of career development, theory, and research of career development.

Career guidance (career education) is considered as a longitudinal effort that developmentally paces from career awareness to career exploration, to career planning/decision-making, and to the implementation.

Career education (career guidance) is intendedly served the developmental needs of all persons and unlimited to individual portion of the general population.

Career guidance (career education) prioritizes the protection and enhancement of career choices for all persons.

Career education (career guidance) provides a recognition and emphasis of education and work relationship.

Career guidance (career education) needs the entire life span.

Career education (career guidance) explores a full person's life value in relation to work choice.

Career guidance (career education) provides recognition of both unpaid and paid work condition and challenges.

Career education (career guidance) seeks to the key role of parents influencing on children career development.

Career guidance (career education) works to provide career development supports to the extended education system and broader community.

Career development program.

Career development program can be defined as a systematic program which there is at least a counsellor who works to coordinate individual or clients' career development (Herr & Cramer, 1996, p. 33). These programs typically contain goals, objectives, activities, and methods for evaluating the effectiveness of the activities in achieving the goals.

Herr et al. (2004) provides some methods in career guidance and counselling by additionally including some activities. Those are;

a career clusters, using self-directed career interest inventories, other sequential or comprehensive approaches, using community resources in career guidance, career guidance strategies for decision making and problem solving, simulation as career guidance strategy, information retrieval, career guidance strategies and work, other career guidance activities and techniques in junior high school, curriculum infusion, decision making and acquisition of career information, and community involvement (pp. 377-392).

Career education or development programs have gradually been used and reinvented within countries over the world. The aims and purposes of these programs are even more likely differentiated based on not only social and local or regional, but global context and trends. There is no end for career education program while the world is increasingly becoming globalized and the system is modernized. In relation to this point of views, Hoyt (1984) emphasizes on the term "Relative" which that means "the career education is alive" (p. 148) and non-stop. Somehow, he regards career education as career guidance.

Chapter Three

Research Method

In this chapter researcher provides the details of relevant instruments to the research design, data collection method, sampling method, and ethical consideration.

Research Design

Many different authors stress the importance of the research method (Creswell, 2009). An appropriately designed method and ethical considerations can lead researchers to reach the goals. Anderson and Arsenault (1998) define qualitative Research as one of the research methods that explores phenomena in its natural setting and apply with multi-methods to interpret, understand, explain, and bring meaning to investigation. The more sources contribute to the research, the more effective result of the research will be. On the other hand, this method has it limitation that bases on the defined questions and analyses. One of the questions is often asked "Will different observers get the same results?" (pp. 141).

This proposed research will lead to the exploration of theoretical or perspective (Creswell, 2009) and possible practical implications for one Cambodian senior secondary school program in order to guide students for career decision making; subject choice and career, and in response to the aim of the Curriculum Development Policy 2005-2009. This exploratory research, therefore, will apply the qualitative method by using a semi-structured interview with some individuals and focus groups.

Data Collection Method

The semi-structured interview can lead the researcher to explore deeper understanding and in-depth explanation on the research questions. Because of the time limitation, however, researcher has to limit the scope of study and will represent its result for only one senior secondary school in Siem Reap province. In this semi-structure interview, questionnaire will be constructed and guide participants to the research questions. Participants will have a space of time to provide in-depth answer and deeper explanation.

However, the limitation of this research result will appear as this career context is very new to the Cambodian people. A researcher will find hard to create appropriate questions in order to apply to the real context and culture. Similarly, respondents will also find hard to provide in-depth and wider answers. It is not easy for this method to limit the time and respondents' answers. On the other hand, it is the only way that allows researcher to make questionnaire base on the broader view and so respondents will get a chance to explore what they have in mind and experience (KJellin & Ostman, 2002).

Sampling Method

Researcher will find recommendations from related stakeholders; NGOs and Education Department or Official for the ideas of choosing a school for this research study. Convenience sampling will be used to conduct the interview with grade twelve students, grade twelve teachers, and the school's senior management leadership in one senior high school in Siem Reap province.

When the proposal is accepted, a request of a formal invitation will be sent to the Master of Education program of Royal University of Phnom Penh. The invitation will use to invite the school's senior management leadership at a school to participate in the interview at a convenient time. A male or female grade twelve teachers and students from each subject will be invited via the school management officer to attend the interview. These teachers are each subject teachers who currently teach the subject they represent for. Similarly, students who will attend the interview are the students who will or have just finished studying the subject they present for. In spite of, there will be a group of male and female of grade twelve students who are from different classes are invited to come for group focus interview. All participants are only whom available and convenient.

The convenience sample is successfully completed if the participants are fully committing to full-fill this work. However, there will be a concern if they neither have time nor want to attend in this interview. Only a subject teacher will be absent, it will affect the general view of its result. Time and political constraint may issue in this process.

The time to attend the interview will not interrupt the class hours. The interviews will conduct during the break or life skill sessions. Regarding to the gender equity, girl and boy students will be equally selected for individual semi-structure interview. For group focus interview, there will be at least some boys and girls in the group but it can be unequal. However, there can be different groups of girls and boys.

Ethical Considerations

The interview will be conducted in safe and comfortable places. Informed consent will be gained from all participants and, confidentiality will be observed with all interviews and the answers will be written down and documented carefully (Anderson & Arsenault, 1998). There voice will be formally recorded.