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The number of students who drop out school in the basic education level is still very high although the government and the other stakeholders have been striving to cut down on number. It is very clear that there are number of things which cause those children to abandon their studies. It is, however, still a skeptical whether the demand side or the supply side which has the most influence on this phenomena. The government of Cambodia has considered the capacity building and human resource development as priority. In the Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government of Cambodia has emphasized several points related to the education quality improvement at all levels. Like stated in the policies and strategies in ESP (Education Strategic Plan) 2006-10, there are a lot of reforms have been made in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals.
The six EFA Dakar goals: 1- Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. 2- Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girl, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality. 3- Ensuring that learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes. 4- Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults. 5- Elimination gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and access to and achievement in basic education of good quality. 6- Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.
Source: UNESCO (2000 b), as cited in FE of IFL, pp 66-67
In those reforms, there have also been the strengthening tasks with other partnerships between the public and private sectors. These important tasks are really applicable for implementing the development goals for the betterment of the quality of education. Without doing the reforms, it is not effective form for the implementation because the concept or the social context does not respond to the strategic plan. The strategic plan and the resource of mobilization and utilization can not be cut off from the the understanding from the context or it will be failed to implement. (MoEYS, (2006) Education strategic plan 2006-2010).
The objectives of the Ministry of Education, the implementers received the commands from the Royal Government of Cambodia, are to conduct the holistic development within the Cambodian youths. Young people are considered as bamboo shoots which can replace the old and dying bamboo, so building up the capacity among them is compulsory. The development of understanding among young people needs to be done for all sectors. In addition, the Ministry of Education attempts to contribute and engender a sense of nationalism and civic pride because it is really essential for them to determine their own identities. It also strives to upgrade the concept of high standards of morality and ethics in order to build up a good country that people can live in harmony. According to this stance, three main purposes have been set. The first purpose is the equitable access to education that indicates that all Cambodian children have right to receive education at least 9 years (finished grade 9). They receive education for free of charge in which the Ministry of Education calls for to promote this prestigious opportunity for all young Cambodians. Secondly, promote the service quality and efficiency of education; so for the Ministry strives to promote the quality of education in all levels especially the low level of education. It has created more supporting programs. In that the establishment of teaching materials is also paid the utmost care. Third, the Ministry intends to introduce the the idea of capacity building for decentralization in which new curricular has been put to manipulate this concept within young Cambodians through lesson of decentralization. The curriculum has been set by focusing much on the expansion of decentralization (Education strategic plan 2006-2010).
According to the strategies and policies that the Ministry has set and determined above, it is not uncertain to fully understand what can be the things that have come as constraints to make students at basic level stop study. A long with the stimulants that the government have distributed, the families have to have some involvements to keep students remain in school. The government has continuously conducted reforms to find and to determine the weak points. Thus, this paper is to seek for the deep understanding on the hardships on the demand side and the capacity of distribution of the supply side. We also study to find out how the government of Cambodia manipulates with these challenges.
Challenges That Lead to Dropping Out
There are several significant challenges which lead to the dropping out among children. Some challenges are ignited by the supply sides while the other is caused by the demand sides. There have been several researches revealed the challenges that lead to the dropping out. The world Bank, in 2004, did stress the problems that lead to the drop out. Each year there is high rate of enrollment at basic level, but they eventually abandoned the school. These phenomena were caused by some factors. First, there is the increase of child labor at the very young age; children were exploited by several means without getting any care from the society or it is lack to be care by the related individuals. Second, there was late enrollment of the children and after a few years in school they felt embarrassed because they saw themselves as big; eventually, they quit. Third, there was lack of readiness for the enrollment; at the beginning of the enrollment the families seemed to have ability to send them to school and later on it was impossible to do, so they stop. Fourth, there is the significant number of incomplete the low level school. Fifth, the lack of qualified teacher was identified as the ignition of the school abandon among the young children. Finally, the identification of the cause was the lack of health-environmental facilities such as playground and libraries (WB 2004).
In fact the number of enrolment at primary level is quite big. The process of their studies can proceed only for a few years and after that the big number become smaller and smaller. There are numbers of complicated obstacles for these drops out. According to the data conducted by EMIS, only 45 per cent of children who start primary school can eventually finish grade sixth and among them, there are only thirty-eight per cent can go to lower secondary school; some of them didn't finish grade 9; in lower secondary school; there are three years which most students can only reach grade 8. It is such a big number of drop out which will be foreseen as number that will be much downgraded to reach grade 9. With this high percentage of drop out, it takes 10.8 years for a child to complete his or her education in primary school (EBEP 2006-2010).
Recently, the Royal Government of Cambodia announced its practical way in improving the education system. Also it proclaimed the great achievements. In the contradict to this, there are still some big problems remain behind the achievement. The drop out rates is still high among primary school children and only small number that can accomplish grade 9. This phenomenon is a constraint for the Ministry in reaching its goal in stimulating the young people to receive basic education from grade 1 to grade 9 by the year 2015. Along with this, some constraints are identified by the Ministry of Education. In order to identify such problem, the Ministry created another department called Education Sector Support Program (ESSP) to detect and identify the problem. The challenges are found as follows: " i) low access to basic education, particularly lower secondary schooling, among children from poor families, girls, ethnic minorities, children with disabilities, and children who are living in remote areas. ii) high dropout rates in basic education, with this most dropouts occurring in upper primary school before children have completed the full cycle. iii) uneven quality and standards in basic education" (Benveniste 2008, p 15).
In 2005 the World Band wrote that the transition period is another main cause of the drop out. The drop out occurs when they finished grade 6, and they are awaiting to pursue to grade 7. The number of children about 75 percent were able to go through from primary school and among that only 52 percent went on their studies to the secondary school and finished their basic education (from grade 1 to grade 9). During this interval, the decisions of the children as well as their parents are abruptly changed for some reasons (World Bank 2005).
So far the Royal Government of Cambodia that has the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports as an acting figure in implementing the educational policies has been working really hard to reduce the dropout rate among the basic education. The Ministry itself is looking for the the causes and it invests a lot of money in building facilities and instructional materials in recent years. Moreover, the government also set up policies to reduce the house whole financial burdens by letting children to enroll school for free. A long with this the necessity for the children to study is also supported. However, this support is still not enough for the children.
The significant barrier for disadvantaged children is the direct cost. In recent year, the government commanded the removal of formal entry to enable them to enroll. Moreover, the Ministry strives to disseminate the information of free of charge enrollment for children. Some educational billboards about the importance of enrollment have been displayed in public to draw the understanding among parents. Unexpectedly, when students have already enrolled, some problems still occurred associated with the informal fees through providing the extra class to students or the like. This phenomenon should be combated for it functions as great constraint that lead to the drop out (Benveniste 2008).
Another strategy to combat the dropout rate is to build up relationship with the community so that they can understand; they will support the enrolment and keep their children in school. In the citation of Education Strategic Plan 2006- 2010, there is the promotion of the relationship between homes and communities. The reasons of this expansion are to promote a shadow education which is considered as the important stimulant to achieve the objectives that have been launched. The campaign aims to disseminate the community- based information of holistic intervention at the early ages. The investments in early age among children has been increased from USD 0.19 million in 2006 to USD 0.3 million by 2010. The promoting program was supported by PAP (Priority Action Program) (Benveniste et al 2008).
To ensure the stimulant package to upgrade within the children enrolment, the Ministry has also launched some other practical projects. In that, child friendly schools are seen significant to push the enrollment and to persuade children to remain in school. However, the campaign to spread the information about this project is not widely done so that parents do not fully understand the significance of it. If the parents know that they will value and help to encourage their children to remain in school.
World Bank (2005) addressed other kind of constraints that lead to the dropout is the quality among teachers. The word quality in here does not really focus on the knowledge of the responsible subjects, but also the art or talent of teacher to harmonize with the students. Teachers need to have psychological knowledge to call for the interest among students. Qualified teachers can help students to stay in school more. In order to reform this, the project of quality improvement interventions program is also launched and a lot of money has been used to conduct this ability upgrading project. A long with student retention, promotion, and especially in student learning is done accompanying with teacher improvement. In the program of upgrading the quality of education, one dollar per pupil has been increased. The program also focuses on teacher training and this prestige implementation lead to the increase in points the students get between 0.70 and 1.05. After the implementation, there is the observation of increase in literacy as well; one dollar was invested in the upgrading policy, one percent was also excelled in student literacy. Another important task that the Ministry of Education pays its concentration in order to reduce the dropout is the investments in health care and skills training. Besides that, it goes to the the modernization of infrastructure.(World Bank: Quality Basic Education for All 2005)
The followings are the components that can be used to stimulate the aspect of pushing the students to remain in school. The practical ways of encouraging students to remain are to enlarge the services to be available such as building up more school houses so that students are easy to get to school. This should be done in both primary and secondary school. Next, there should be the expanding of operating budget for these two levels. To do this can also lead to the elimination of gathering the illegal money. Thirdly, the development of remedial classes must be done. Fourth, the instructional material must be available to improve the quality of teaching and make the learning enjoyable for students. Sometimes it is hard for students to understand the abstract concept, so the use of teaching material can help students to form pictures in mind; they can understand better (World Bank 2008).
Elimination of unofficial fees.
Unofficial fees are the significant constraint that make students' families can't afford education for their children. In fact, under the support of the government, students do not pay for registration at the beginning of the new academic year. Surprisingly, students need to pay like bicycle parking fees; it is not a compulsory pay but students need to do unavoidable because they don't know where to park. The parking fees are thought to be too high sometime. Other unofficial fees are the fees students pay for the extra class. Students are not put pressure directly, instead they are put pressure indirectly through, for instance, giving low mark. "Extra classes are reported in only 6-7 percent of small rural schools, but in more than 40 percent of large urban schools. Fees also vary considerably from less than R300 per class in small rural school to more than R500 in big urban schools" (Araujo 2008. p. 58).
Some other problems are identified for the demand side. These problems are the obstacle to miss persuading the students to remain in school.
The primary education, especially the repetition of grade 1, 2 and 3 and the drop out of grade 5 and 6 still has some issues which have to be solved timely such as: a/Documents related to Child Friendly School program are not widely available. b/ PB budgets cannot be accessed at the start of the financial year, this impacts negatively on conducting activities and the achievement of targets. c/ The teaching hours and school calendar are often curtailed. d/ Insufficient access to textbooks reduces the quality of education and coverage of the curriculum. e/ Insufficient infrastructure, including: latrines, sources of water and sanitation, libraries in many schools in remote and disadvantaged areas impacts on students' attendance and performance. f/ There are insufficient teachers in rural and remote areas undermining the quality of education and learning in these areas. g/ The capacity of District Training and Management Teams (DTMT) in all provinces and capital city is not strong enough to help the teachers and school directors improve school performance (National Education Congress Summary Report-Academic Year 2008-09 p.4)
The number of dropouts in the rural areas is higher than in the urban. In rural areas, children are subject to do works such as looking after cattle in the fields; besides that, those children need to do more chores like carrying water from ponds, wells nearby, and firewood to supply home. That is a great burden for them to manage time to study. When they are so busy with this kind of work, they seem to have no feeling to read books (Dy 2004).
What the Government Should Do to Reduce the Dropout Rate
In order to reduce the number of dropouts, the government should do several jobs such as staff training, financing, evaluating, facility providing, setting clear policies, and other program monitoring.
As stated in the Congress Report (2009), staff training is important in reducing the dropout rate for it helps students to gain their knowledge quite well. It also relates to the quality of education. When students get good academic achievement, their families as well as themselves feel really proud so that they have strong commitment towards education. Sometimes, the academic achievement can insult students and their families and in the end student can quit their studies.
Another important thing for the government to do is to finance especially on building more school building quite near to their home. The government has to ensure that one village there is one primary school. Besides the school buildings, financing on teaching materials is also important to achieve the effective academic result. Moreover, the government should provide more money for teachers. If teachers have high salary, it is clear that they spiritually have committed to their teaching and their teaching will have good result.
Setting up clear indicators as well as other policies related education is extremely significant. Dy (2001) stressed the importance of clear policies making. Prioritizing the policies making is to pave the way clearly that the Ministry could access their goals. The Ministry of Education that has administrators to implement the policies should particularly focus on primary education by conducting special training for all teachers as well as the school principals.
It has been observed that the dropout rate is still remaining high even though the government has been striving its works to eliminate or to reduce. The areas that are considerably indicated as high are in rural. The problem is that in those remote areas really face many difficulties for children while the urban areas students seem to use most of their time in learning. In contrast to the city children, rural children use most of their time to do house work and other non-academic affairs. Although these problems occur, the government is the one which has significant function to stimulate the reducing process of the dropout among children in lower education.