Khmer Rouge Took Control Of Cambodia Education Essay

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After the collapse of the Khmer Republic leading by General Lon Nol, "Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia on April 17, 1975," (Dy Khamboly, 2007,). Then the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) formed the state of Democratic Kampuchea in 1976 and led the country until January 1979 However, The party's identity was retained secret until 1977, and no one outside the CPK recognized who its leaders were (the leaders called themselves " Angkar Padevat"), (Dy Khamboly, 2007). The Khmer Rouge evacuated people in Phnom Penh and other cities to the countryside to carry out agricultural work. Therefore, "thousands of people died during the evacuations," (Dy Khamboly, 2007). The Khmer Rouge also started their plans to eliminate religion, culture, and social classes. Schools, pagodas, markets and government buildings were closed or turned into prisons, stables, or reeducation camps (Dy Khamboly, 2007).

Under Democratic Kampuchea (DK), everyone was underprivileged of their basic rights and people were not allowed to gather and talk to each other more than three people. Also family relationships were also heavily criticized. For instance, people were forbidden to show even the slightest affection, humor or pity. In contrast, the Khmer Rouge forced all Cambodians to believe, obey and respect only Angkar Pedevat as mother or father (Dy Khamboly, 2007).

Peter G.lay (1989, p.260) argued that "during the period of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to January 1979, education as such did not exist" and "education was mandatory for children between the ages of five and nine in a curriculum that was confined to literacy and some numeracy", but the Khmer Rouge generally had a tendency to oppose to education and the ruling was given to local leaders to implement and operated only some of flourishing districts. For example, in the district village of Leach, in southwestern Pursat province, children were set to learn one hour of regular instruction before they had to work in groups. The main parts of the lessons involved in learning revolutionary songs and danced base on traditional tune while children of middle and upper class urban parents were removed from their parents altogether for reeducation. In the area of secondary education, a low-level technical college, the Institute for Scientific Training and Information, existed in Phnom Penh. Most instruction for young and adult alike consisted of self-criticism and political indoctrination sessions. In the meantime, several hundred thousand school age children were massacred or died of starvation and disease in this period.

Aim of study

This paper traces and analyses educational strategy and policy development under the DK with a special concern on basic education strategies for children. This period is critically significant for the history of schooling system in Cambodia. It covers Pol Pot or infamous regime of the Khmer Rouge (1975-79). It probes the regime's educational strategies and policies for their citizens in line with political education change. Its inputs, methods, and outputs are discussed so as to explain its commitments to building or changing Cambodia.

Research Questions

This study covers the Khmer Rouge regime of different political trends and ideology dating from the 1975 to 1979 - focusing on children and education. The central question begs to be asked here is what is the education system for children? Where and how long did they learn? How did they learn?

Children under Khmer Rouge

In order to be loyal to the state, the Khmer Rouge enforced the breaking of ties to religion and family. All political and civil rights were eliminated. Formal education terminated and from January 1977, all children from the age of 8 were separated from their parents and placed in labour camps, which taught them that the State was their 'true' parents. For the Khmer Rouge, children were central to the revolution as they believed they could be easily moulded, conditioned and indoctrinated. They could be taught to obey orders, become soldiers and kill enemies. Children were taught to believe that anyone not conforming to the Khmer laws were corrupt enemies (Holocaust Memorial Day Trust).

School Curriculum

Ayrese ( 2000, p.106) argued that "Pol Pot's plan for the education system contained three central ideological elements". The first thing for education was to study letters and number so as to study technology. The second was the practice after lessons and the last was political perception to show the route of party is right.

Ayrese (2000, p.106) noted that based on the plan, the formal education was to comprise of three years of primary education in general subjects, three years of general secondary education, three years of technical secondary and tertiary education in technical subjects, also for three years. In contrast, children were taught similar curricula: rudimentary literacy, numeracy, revolutionary songs and through slogans, revolutionary military. However, "the plan makes almost no mention of the educational curriculum, other than to list the "general subjects" for study" ( Ayreses, 2000, p.107).


Sideth S. Dy ( 2004, p.95) noted that "damage was inflicted not only to the educational infrastructure, but Cambodia also lost almost three-quarters of its educated population under the regime when teachers, students, professionals and intellectuals were killed or managed to escape into exile". Schools were abandoned and books were destroyed. Thus, there was nearly no provision for the education of children. Consequently, children learned under trees or people's houses with teachers were often poor peasants who could only read and write a little (Dy Khamboly, 2007, p.35). The children were taught two or three hours a day of primary education. However, educational materials were inadequate. There were no pencils, paper or books, so children were required to make chalk from clay or charcoal and waste paper from used cement bags. After study, children worked in fields to make dikes, collect cow dung, tend paddies or vegetables, and watch over the cattle grazing ( Divid M. Ayrese, 2000). Damien de Walque( 2004) claimed that "only basic primary schools, with a curriculum centered on agricultural skills, were open and no secondary schools were in operation". Students who were of secondary schooling age at the end of the 1970s have a lower level of educational achievement.

Qualification of Education

The Khmer Rouge's plan of education system does not outline in any detail how the regime intends to implement its objectives regarding education and literacy. For example, important pedagogical matters such as teacher selection and training, and the development of curriculum and materials are not discussed ( Divid M. Ayrese, 2000). Nevertheless, the document does provide a glimpse of the Party's view of education in general and literacy in particular. The quality of education received by children in DK was mediocre in every respect. Teachers, almost exclusively old people from rural areas, were poorly trained or not trained at all and students who were all too often overworked and malnourished, the result of education, in many cases, was negative development by children ( Divid M. Ayrese, 2000). In education system there are no examinations and no certificates; it is a system of learning through the collective and in the concrete movement of the socialist revolution and the building of socialism in specific bases, especially in the co-operatives, factories, and military units (George Chigas and Dmitri Mosyakov, 2010).

Discussion and Conclusion

Children under the Khmer Rouge didn't get formal education, but they were set ideology to love Khmer Rouge in order to serve their plan. Therefore, children lost opportunity for their education and even their childhood. Moreover, children were not allowed to stay with their parents in order to get their parents' warmness. All this shows that the Khmer Rouge did not provide children adequate education, but they forced children to work very hard with insufficient food and join arm force. As a result, many children died because of diseases, starvation and joining Khmer Rouge arm force during the war.