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In this globalized world, education has been seen as a very important role for sustainable development and economic growth of each country. In addition, both developed and developing countries have invested and increased their national budget for education from year to year. However, some challenging issues for education still happen, and it varies from one country to another. Developed countries have advanced and worldwide acknowledged education systems which produce human resources to the highest possible level, whereas developing countries are still struggling to create proper education systems for their generations. In developing country, there are many issues and challenges of Lower Secondary Education which need to be urgently addressed.
Cambodia is also a developing country among the other country members in ASEAN. So far, even there are some positive improvements of lower secondary education in Cambodia. For example: The promotion rate was 78.40%, 78.50% of which was female, the repetition rate was 2% (ESP 2%), 1.3% of which was female (ESP 1.4%), the dropout rate was 19.60% (ESP 17%) and 20.2% of which was female (ESP 18%). Also, the numbers of lower secondary school building have been increasing from year to year (MoEYS, 2011).
Also, there were some challenges for lower secondary school such as the enrolment rate was still low and dropout school rate remained high. Recent statistics has shown that students' enrollment in lower secondary education has not increased (2009-2010); it was only 56 %( Female 56.1%) of overarching enrollment rate in lower secondary education nationwide and dropout rate was 19.60 % (Female, 20.2%). Furthermore, there were many shortages of core textbooks, especially textbooks for new curriculum, secondary education inspectors, classrooms, libraries, laboratory facilities and clean water, poverty (especially in disadvantaged areas), and the enrolment rate was still low and the rate of dropout remained high, administrative management as well as physical and emotional school environment which lead students to drop out and find jobs.
According to UNICEF(2006), to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) requires not just getting all children into school, but making sure that all schools work in the best interest of the children entrusted to them. This means providing safe and protective schools that are adequately staffed with trained teachers, equipped with adequate resources and graced with appropriate conditions for learning (UNICEF, 2006).
In 2003, the global MDGs have been localized in Cambodia and these are called Cambodia Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs) which covered by 09 goals (The Ministry of Planning, 2007). Cambodia has achieved some of those goals and the other still need to improve such as the limited progress in achieving the goals of universal nine-year basic education particularly those beyond primary education.
Ministry of Education has already done Child Friendly School policy, the objective of dimension 3 emphasized about health, safety and protection of children. To achieve this objective core activities have been taking into actions such as creating safe food, safe water, and hygienic conditions in school, health care for children, school environment and child protection (MoEYS, 2007).
However, the practice of this policy is very limited. This research will only focus on the strength and weakness of physical and emotional school environment and it will explore how problems in physical and emotional school environment can be addressed.
Lacking of better school environment, it may cause many problems, particularly high dropout rate, low enrolment rate and high repetition rate which will become a negative impact to students' learning and the barriers for a whole country development due to the limitation of human resources may be caused. In contrast, whenever it has better school environment, it will provide equitable assessing to lower secondary schools. In addition, students will get the quality of education and they will achieve their goal and become productive human resources to develop our society. Also, when the good result of students will be shown, school principals and teachers will be satisfied with their jobs and keep commitment and contribution for long lasting education development.
This research is tend to be an opinion for considering, and the unintentionally mistake will be occurred. Responding to this, I am freely looking forward to seeing other critiques and recommendations.
This research will explore and answer to the following questions:
What do grade nice students, teachers and school principal identify as being the strength and weakness in the school environment for grade 9 students?
What are grade nice students, teachers and school principal' beliefs about how problems in the school environment can be addressed?
Signification of Study
This research will provide the benefit to grade 9 students and educators, school principal to deeply understand about the strength and weakness of their school environment. And it will be attempted to show how problems of physical and emotional school environment can be addressed in order to increase enrolment rate and reduce dropout school rate by setting up better school environment applied with the existing Child Friendly School policy of Ministry of Education. Furthermore, this study will be necessary for other researchers to conduct their research related to lower secondary education.
I will review and focus only physical and emotional school environment in literature review for this paper. The useful resources used for the literature review were found in: The Hun Sen Library of the Royal University of Phnom Penh and I also used books, article and reports about school environment from website of the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Planning, Unesco, Unicef, World Bank and Google Scholar.
The physical school environment which includes classroom facilities, the library, playground, textbook, class size, and, curriculum. Finally, emotional environment includes bullying, sexual harassment, teacher behavior, school policies, quality of teaching. A discussion of the literature written in contexts outside of Cambodia is followed by a review of material that focused on the Cambodian situation.
The physical School Environment
Acoording to Pulizzi (2007), the physical environment includes all areas of the learning institution's buildings and classrooms, educators' rooms and houses, dormitory facilities, lavatories, and playgrounds, classroom facilities, the library, playground, textbook, class size, and, curriculum, infrastructure, furniture, air, water, and materials with which children may connect and access. It also includes routes to and from the learning institution, bus stops and taxi stands, and woods or bushes near the learning institution. Policies regarding weapons, drugs, and gender based violence are also included in physical school environment.
Benveniste, Marshall & Araujo (2008) wrote their research aimed to provide Cambodia educational situation including the statistic of school infrastructure for years 2003 and 2004. The statistic of the research showed that the main building material used in the construction of classrooms in 2003 and 2004, the first were concrete; especially in the urban, the second was wooden and the third was bamboo; mostly was used in the remote area. Also, the above statistic concluded that both rural area and urban, primary and secondary, the school facilities were better equipped and established to create the safe for students and therefore, they satisfied and enjoyed their learning with this infrastructure. Similarly, Herbert (2000) mention about the quantity and quality of teaching services. Class sizes in Cambodian schools are high about 40 to 50 students in each class, making it difficult for teachers to manage and motivate in the whole class and to ensure positive learning environment. Student aptitude and psychological environments are also pervasive influences on learning.
By the same token, we need to take care of school building, ground, school materials, school equipment such as school latrines, school water and sanitation, clean and tidy that attract student to learn and they will feel fresh and comfortable at any time when they go to school. The teachers and staffs will also feel energy which leads to better work habits in them as well (Curcio& First, 1993). On the other hand, let students share their idea and input as well as contribution to decorate and manage their classrooms. Then, students will feel ownership and they will take care of their achievement to keep welcoming environment school for their learning. Likewise, in order to ensure equitable opportunity, new school buildings have been constructed for all levels in Cambodia, particularly in rural and remote areas and to increase scholarships for poor students. Also, to improve physical school environment, make sure that students can easily assess better school environment, together the hygienic habits of and children have safe water (MoEYS, 2010).
However, the school environment refers to how to improve school health promotion (The World Health Organization, 2002). In this context, schools need to provide t orientation to students and all relevant stakeholders to promote healthy eating and food safety. Therefore, all stakeholders such as school personnel, families and community members need to work together in partnership to improve school health services to deal with health problems and to prevent, reduce and monitor them.
Emotional School Environment
The emotional environment is something which affects students' feeling positively and negatively, 'the area focuses on the activities and assignments that make students embarrassed or fear (Price, 2007). On the other hand, Blum (2005) added that school environment was influenced by some factors such as disciplinary policies, students and teachers' morality. It was not only considered about school facilities such as buildings, toilets, libraries, ICTs and so on, but schools should included school health services and provide sufficient orientation about safe food as well as nutrition programs.
According to Plan International (2008), Children have a right to a safe school and learning without fear as well as threats of violence environment. To improve emotional school environment school need to reduce corporal punishment as much as possible. It occurs when physical force is used by someone in a position of authority against someone in his or her care with the intention of causing some degree of pain or discomfort. This can take the form of hitting children with a hand, or with a cane, strap or other object; kicking, shaking or throwing children; scratching, pinching, biting or pulling hair; forcing them to stay in uncomfortable positions. Vulnerable children such as disability, poverty, caste, class, ethnicity or sexuality is more likely to suffer corporal punishment than their peers.
Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (2007) made Child Friendly School policy which aimed to provide equity, balance, freedom, solidarity, non-violence and concern for physical, mental health to students. These lead to the development of knowledge, skill, values, morals so that children can live together in a harmonious way. Child friendly School works with all commitment holder, parents, and guardians of student and value the many kinds of contributions they can make in seeking all the children to go to school in development of a learning environment for children and effective learning quality according to the children's current and future need. Thus, schools should be followed to Child Friendly School policy in order to promote education right of children, and set better school environment for them to successfully achieve their goals in the future.
A part of this, Mayer (2004) stated that school need to orientate students and parents on the ways they can make better school environment for students. Do this early in the school year and repeat it throughout the year. It is very important that a school instructs the parents and the students at the beginning of each school year on how they can help make the school a safe and welcoming place.
To fulfill the education of students not only requires all children into school, but making sure that all schools work in the best interest of the children entrusted to them. This means providing safe environment and protective schools that are adequately staffed with trained teachers, equipped with adequate resources and graced with appropriate conditions for learning (UNICEF, 2006).
Students, teachers and school principal
School alone cannot create the safe place for student 'learning, it required good cooperation from many parties such as school committee, parent participation, students, teachers, school board member, law enforcers, government officer, educators who take active roles and initiate and local residents. Unless, all the people committed to work together otherwise, school cannot be the safe and better environment for students (The Center for Mental Health in Schools, 2007). Also, there are many strategies to create welcoming school environment such as placing school safety on the education agenda, school administrators should facilitate and coordinate community efforts which promote safe schools. In addition, it needs the qualify teacher and the capacity of principal school to work on this for creating a safe and welcoming environment school for the students. Conversely, to create better school environment, peer conflict management need to solve and some useful training such as in problem- solving and preventive strategy, communication skills and so on should be provided to teachers and school management to school principal. This will also address some issues related to emotional environment.
As educators, we have a responsibility to our students to make them trust feel confident in their schooling (UNESCO, 1995). Hence, the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport needs to continue to train qualified teachers in adequate numbers and effectively implement its teacher deployment policy. It will provide them with the opportunity to study at bachelor as well as post-graduate levels and will thus increase their basic salaries. Then teachers will satisfy in their careers and the will commit to create warmly school environment for students (MoEYS, 2010).
For this reason, Kathleen (2003, p. 8) also contributed to create emotional school environment by sharing the following statement:
"From the earliest research to the present day, school environment has been identified as the most fundamental element of effectiveness. Effective principals bring about this kind of environment by exhibiting personal warmth and accessibility, ensuring that there is broad-based agreement about standards for student behavior, communicating high behavioral standards to students, seeking input from students about behavior policies, applying rules consistently from day to day and from student to student, delegating disciplinary authority to teachers, and providing in-school suspension accompanied by support for seriously disruptive students."