Povertys effect on Cambodian Childrens Start to Education

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A nearly three-decade destructive civil war dragged Cambodia out of the world's recognition and down into painful history. Moreover, this chronic war has created many long-term bad effects- the war-torn economic health, lack of human resources, and social and political issues. Due to these consequences, education in the country are not well respected and quite often taken for granted. According to Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports (MoEYS)'s report of the Education Strategic Plan 2006-2010 (2004a), the Royal Government of Cambodia (RCoC) has followed the rectangular strategy by improving the quality of education and developing human resources. For example, in 2003, MoEYS created a national plan in order to accomplish Education for All (EFA) by 2015. The EFA is one of the goals in the Cambodian Millennium Development Goal (CMDG) in 2000, which aim to achieve worldwide completion of nine-year basic education by 2015 and reduce gender discrimination in basic education by 2010. MoEYS's report (2004a) also shows that many of children are coming to primary school through EFA, but the majority of poor children leaves school or cannot finish their studying. According to the Edcuation Management Information System (EMIS) data in MoEYS's report (2004a), only 45 per cent of children who go to primary school will continue to Grade 6 and only 38 per cent will can go on to lower secondary. This shows that the access to lower secondary education increase very slowly. It also presents that the poverty is main cause that makes Cambodian children to start school late, repeat some grades and finally drop out without finishing primary cycle of six years.

This paper discusses supply-side and demand-side factors which may prevent poor children from staying in school. The supply-side factors concern the overall level of priority and allocation of resources given to basic education. The "demand-side factors" concern socio-economic characteristics of specific groups of children who are most unreached with basic education.

II. Supply-side factors

1. Incomplete schools

Incomplete schools, by not offering the full range of primary school grades, have a negative effect on education outcomes. In addition to the obvious loss associated with the grades not offered, they also have been shown to increase school entry age, dropout rates, and repetition rates in those grades offered. Incomplete schools are also associated with a 0.3-point increase in the dropout rate and a 0.8-point increase in the repetition rate per grade offered. The impact at the individual school, as demonstrated, is magnified at the high percentage of incomplete primary schools throughout the country. While most villages in Cambodia have a primary school, 40.5 percent of them are incomplete - 25.1 percent in urban areas, 39.1 percent in rural areas, and 78.7 percent in remote areas. This is a clear example of the impact that supply-side variables have on the household demand for schooling.

2. School facilities

Schools offering health-related facilities and learning-related facilities have consistently lower dropout rates. The availability of drinking water is significantly associated with lower overage intake. Furthermore, schools with toilet and library facilities tend to have lower repetition rates. These findings are consistent with international evidence on the benefits of maintaining a healthy school environment that promotes learning. These general results are corroborated by Marshall (2004) in the context of specific school investments under the Cambodia Education Quality Improvement Project for three provinces.

3. Management, incentives, and participation

These are other factors that can hinder children from going to school. As World bank (2005) presents that to help students to go to school early and help them staying school, schools need to have good management, teachers should get more monetary incentives, the community also participate more in school. Take a look at one example about teachers' salary. Schools where teachers receive high salaries will decrease in dropout rates. Also, schools are required to cooperate with community so as to reduce dropout.

4. Teachers

The last supply-side factor that prevents poor children staying in school is teachers. As shown in World Bank report (2005), schools which have teachers who are have a lot of experience will keep many students in school. Therefore, school directors have to good management skills to keep teachers in the school. It is true that most teachers tend to work in more advantaged areas, like cities, so in order to help poor areas to have more qualified teachers, enough incentives need to be provided to them. "These incentive structures include both teachers' compensation and the rules governing the hiring, development, promotion, training, and termination of teachers.'' (World Bank, 2005). In fact, the teacher's working conditions in Cambodia is not very good, so teachers need to look for work outside school to support themselves.

III. Demand-side factors

1. Poverty

Poverty is the main demand-side factor that lead to higher dropout rate in Cambodia. Three inter-related points lead to poverty. These are (i) child labor; (ii) direct costs and indirect or opportunity costs of child schooling; and (iii) late entry into primary school.

1.1 Child labor

Child labor really affects the students' performance in school. For example, some children work very hard both inside and outside the house to support their family. Because heavy work, they cannot complete their primary education. According to UNICEF (2007):

While a majority of working children of school-going age attend school, their

workload is intensive, with an average of 22 hours of economic activity each week

for children aged seven to fourteen years. This heavy workload negatively affects

children's learning achievement. Child labor not only disrupts timely entry into

school, which can affect prospects for completion, but the burden of economic

activity also interferes with learning outcomes (UNICEF, 2007).

1.2 Costs of child schooling

The costs of basic education are expensive for some families in Cambodia, which cannot keep the children in school. UNICEF (2007) reports that households provided 56 per cent to the direct cost of sending a child to primary school. This percentages decreased from 77 per cent in 1997. In addition, indirect or opportunity costs of child's schooling is important in term of foregone wage earnings. There is a difficulty to the entry and completion of schooling for poor children because of high indirect cost of schooling regarding foregone wages.

1.3 Late entry into primary school

Late school entry is significantly associated with higher dropout rates. The report from UNICEF (2007) shows that only about 25 per cent of children who started Grade 1 in 2001 were of the right age of six years. Together with often repetition, the late age of entry went up the average age of children in primary school to 10.8 years as of 2001. This happen mostly to children from poorer families. "By the time children reach upper grades of primary education, many of them are already in their mid-teens, a time when economic factors start becoming more significant in terms of both direct costs and indirect/opportunity costs of education as mentioned above. This induces very high drop-out rate particularly among poor households" (UNICEF, 2007).

2. Geography

World Bank (2004) presents that relative to both schools in urban and rural areas, schools in remote areas have 'worse' school characteristics in terms of dropout. According to UNICEF (2007), in remote areas, net enrolment rates are low, and repetition rates are high in primary education. This means that in rural areas, most parents do not like school conditions, and they think that their children do not have opportunity for jobs, except faming. Moreover, The teachers in rural areas do not have higher education; 55 per cent of them have only primary or secondary education. Also, there are low infrastructural facilities, such as safe drinking water and toilet, which make the people dislike school condition. All these factors decrease household demand for education and leads to the exclusion of children from primary school.

3. Ethnicity

Ethnicity also explains dropout rates of students in primary education. UNICEF (2007) shows that the literacy rate of ethnic minorities is 26 per cent compared with the national average of 63 per cent. Ethnic minority groups mostly live in rural, remote provinces, such as Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri. Because most parents in these areas have low literacy and high level of poverty, they do not want their children to go to school.

IV. Selected Policies and Programs for Educational Reform

According to data from UNICEF (2007), there are some selected policies and programs for education reform below:

1. Pro-poor education policies

Reducing primary education cost burdens on households - This is a good policy that can help keep student in basic education. By giving free education fee to all households, especially poor families, parents are likely to send their children to school.

2. Reaching rural and remote areas

Completing incomplete schools - As we all know that incomplete schools are obstacles to primary education in rural and remote areas of Cambodia. According to MoEYS (2004a), in 2004 the government targeted on additional classrooms and selective multi-grade teaching in villages and communes without complete grades 1-6. The government also carried out the pilot project that can bring in community governance and management of the school completion process.

Incentives for teacher deployment in rural/remote areas - Most rural and remote areas lack of qualified teachers to teach in schools. With this incentive program, teacher will be more encouraged to work there and higher dropout rate will be cut down.

3. Ethnic minority education

Bilingual education -By knowing that education programs are not enough in remote areas, the government implemented a bilingual education project on a small scale in Ratanakiri. The project allowed the teaching of national curriculum with the use of ethnic minority language as a bridging language for the first four years of primary education, (UNICEF, 2007).

Targeted training of future teachers from remote and ethnic minorities -In this program, the government recruited and trained more ethnic minority students in formal teacher training institutions so as to present the chronic teacher shortages in remote areas. The first key action of the two actions was the reduction of the entry requirements for applicants from remote provinces and ethnic minorities into formal teacher training; and the second was constructing dormitory facilities, particularly for women student-teachers.

V. Conclusion

This paper examined both supply-side factors and demand-side factors that impact on the children's completion of primary education in Cambodia. Supply-side factors are incomplete schools, school facilities, management, incentives, and participation, and teachers. These factors need to be taken care carefully; otherwise, there will be higher dropout rates, especially among poor households. As for the demand-side factors, poverty, geography, and ethnicity are most important determinants of entering primary education. This paper also introduces some government's policies and programs for education reform regarding all factors specifically to the poor living in rural and remote areas in order to bring all children to primary education in Cambodia.

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