UNESCO "UNION NACIONAL DE EDUCACION SUPERIOR CONTINUA ORGANIZADA"
"NATIONAL UNION OF
CONTINUOUS ORGANIZED HIGHER EDUCATION"
EDUCATION SYSTEM IN CAMBODIA
Primary school students in Cambodia
In Cambodia, an
education system has been in place since at least from the thirteenth century
on. Traditionally, Cambodian education took place in the Wats (Buddhist monasteries) and was offered
exclusively to the male population. The education involved basic literature,
the foundation of religion and skills for daily life like carpentry, artistry,
craftwork, constructing, playing instruments etc.
This ‘traditional’ education was gradually changed when Cambodia was a
French colony (1863-1953). The French introduced a formal education system
influenced by a Western educational model, which was
developed through the independence period (1960s), alongside with the traditional
education. During the following civil wars, the education system suffered a
chronic crisis and was completely destroyed during the Red Khmer regime
(1970s). Between 1980s and 1990s, education was reconstructed from almost
‘nothing’ and has been gradually developed until now.
Presently, after its reform in 1996, the formal educational structure of
Cambodia is formulated in 6+3+3. This means 12 years for the completion of
general education that divides up into six years for primary education (grade 1
to 6) and six years for secondary general education (grade 7 to 12). Secondary
education consists of three years each for lower secondary education (grade 7
to 9) and upper secondary education (grade 10 to 12). This formulation does not
include at least one year for pre-school education (kindergarten) for children
from 3 to below 6 years old and universitary
education of 4 to 5 years.
Two others components of Cambodian educational structure involve non-formal
education providing all children, youth, adult, disabled people with literacy
and access to life skills. The other component is teacher training education.
This allows students that successfully completed grade 12 or grade 9 to pursue
teacher certificates at provincial teacher training colleges (for primary
school teachers) or regional teacher training centers (for lower secondary
Currently, the educational system is run by the Cambodian state, but
private education exists at all levels and is run by private sectors. Most
private schools offering pre-school education and general education have been
operated by the communities of ethnic and religious minority including Chinese,
Muslim, French, English and Vietnamese. Private higher education is accessible
mainly in the capital of the country, but it is also available throughout the
provinces of Cambodia.
Cambodian general education is based on a national school curriculum that
consists of two main parts: basic education and upper secondary education.
Basic education curriculum is divided into three cycles of three years each.
The first cycle (grade 1-3) consists of 27-30 lessons per week lasting 40
minutes which are allocated to the five main subjects:
• Khmer (13 lessons)
• Maths (7 lessons)
• Science & Social Studies including Arts (3 lessons)
• Physical and Health Education (2 lessons) and local life
skills program (2-5 lessons)
The second cycle (grade 4-6) comprises of the same number of lessons but is
• Khmer (10 for grade 4 and 8 for grade 5-6)
• Maths (6 for grade 4-6)
• Science (3 for grade 4 and 4 for grade 5-6)
• Social Studies including arts (4 for grade 4 and 5 for
• Physical and Health Education (2 for grade 4-6)
• Local life skills program (2-5 for grade 4-6).
The third cycle (grade 7-9) consists of 32-35 lessons which are allocated
for 7 major subjects:
• Social Studies and Science (6 lesson respectively)
• Foreign languages (4 lessons)
• Physical & Health Education and Sports (2 lessons)
• Local life skills program (2-5 lessons)
Upper Secondary Education curriculum consists of two different phases. The
curriculum for the first phase (grade 10) is identical to the third cycle of
primary education (see above). The second phase (grade 11-12) has two
main components: Compulsory and Electives. Compulsory involves four major
subjects with different numbers of lesson allocated per week: Khmer literature
(6 lessons), Physical & Health Education and Sports (2 lessons), Foreign
language: English or French (must choose one, 4 lessons each) and Mathematics:
Basic or Advance (must choose one, 4 or 8 lesson respectively). Electives
include three major subjects covering four or five sub-subjects with four
lessons allocated per week for each one (students may choose one or two or
three of them):
• Science: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Earth and
• Social Studies: Moral/Civics, History, Geography, Economics
• EVEP: ICT/Technology, Accounting Business Management, Local
Vocational Technical Subject, Tourism and Arts Education and other subjects
For those choosing Basic Maths or Advance Maths must choose four sub-subjects or three subjects
respectively from the electives.
Cambodia, once considered a safe-haven
and “Island of Peace” in the 1950s through 1960s, quickly became a torn country
with the rise of the radical political group Khmer Rouge.
The Khmer Rouge’s primary goal was to
turn Cambodia into a rural, classless society. To do so, the Khmer Rouge
government targeted those most capable of opposing the government. One point
seven million of Cambodia’s most culturally intellectual — doctors, teachers,
lawyers, accountants, clergy, merchants, and engineers — were murdered. As a
result, a generation of intellects was eliminated, leaving no one to pass down
knowledge to the coming generations.
an interview with CNN, Khmer Rouge expert Craig Etcheson described
how “nearly two generations of young Cambodian men grew up learning little more
than how to kill.” So, when the Khmer Rouge was overthrown in 1979, Cambodia
had to rebuild from virtually nothing.
Additionally, Cambodia had to reconstruct themselves
without approximately 25 percent of its entire population, consisting primarily
of its educated class. Though democracy was introduced in the early 1990s,
strengthening the country has been a glacial process. However, education in
particular has beenmaking
strides in providing access to schoolingand sex education.
In 2003, the nonprofit organizationCaring for Cambodiawas formed to improve education in
Cambodia by raising money and building schools for grades K-12. Thus far, CFC
has built 21 schools in the Siem Reap region of Cambodia.
According to CFC’s website, over the
course of five years, schools that participate in the program see a 70 percent
enrollment increase. CFC has secured 4,000 financial supporters as well
as acquired 250 devoted volunteers to carry out its mission of providing education
in Cambodia to an increasing number of children. Students of higher
education are also being given more access to opportunities.
The American University of Phnom Penh in
Cambodia has partnered with the University of Arizona to offer Cambodian students
a first-rate U.S. education. As of September 2016,as reported by Khmer Times, students
attending AUPP are now able to take courses from the University of Arizona and
earn a dual degree from the two schools in undergraduate and master’s degrees.
From 2010 to 2014, the pregnancy rate for Cambodian girls ages 15 to 19
increased from 8 percent to 12 percent. In 2013 to combat and reduce this
pregnancy rate, Cambodia began a test project throughout schools in 9 regions
This pilot project taught students in
primary, secondary and high schools about practicing safe sex, pregnancy,
sexual orientation, sexually transmitted diseases, and gender-based violence
and abuse. According to Cambodia Daily, teachers in Cambodia have attributed
previously skipping over such subject matter to parent opposition as well as it
being a “sensitive issue.”
Despite some believing sex education to be a taboo
topic, the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia has recommended the
governmentmake sex education
a core subjectin grades 5 to 12.
As advised, the Ministry of Education in
Cambodia will be rolling out the pilot program nationwide by 2019 with the goal
of decreasing the pregnancy rate in girls ages 15 to 19 by educating and
changing the traditional social norms.
Although the Khmer Rouge takeover
presented destructive setbacks for Cambodia socially and economically,
education in Cambodia has been making meaningful improvements since the turn of
the century and optimistically continues to do so.