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Children prepare for school in Cambodia

In Cambodia, more children are going to and staying in school thanks to school readiness classes provided by Plan International.

Students in readiness class show their teacher an alphabet they write.

Mrs. Kong Sem Khemara and her husband Mr. Ros Un are farmers, just like 82% of the population in Tboung Khmum province.

They are confident that their daughters are ready for school and will be able to follow their ambitions after attending Plan International-supported school readiness classes.

"The school readiness programme has been introduced to prepare children, especially those who did not attend pre-school, for primary school. It lasts for 8 weeks right before the new academic year starts," says Plan Intenational Cambodia's Thap Kyheu.

After having attended the school readiness classes, Sreypich sings songs, draws and practices the reading and writing skills she learned at the school readiness classes.

Sreypich shows her writing, a Khmer alphabet, to the class.

“We didn’t spend much time at school and now forget what we learned. We are so busy with feeding chickens and pigs, growing vegetables, farming and doing other housework that we cannot help our daughters with their learning,” says Mrs. Khemara.

“For me, I can ride her back and forth to school. My husband and I are pleased to see her becoming so bright. We want to support her to study as much as we can.”

The Deputy Director of the Provincial Education Department, Mr. Nuon Siranhoeurn, says teachers selected to run the school readiness classes have been trained to apply student-centred teaching approaches.

“We encourage the active engagement of students in learning through storytelling, singing and playing educational games. Students like it so much,” he says.

In Teuk Chrov commune, 7-year-old Ratana – who attended the school readiness classes last year – continues to perform very well as a first-grader.

Her achievement has motivated her parents to think of ways to support her in fulfilling her dream of becoming a teacher when she grows up.

“Assessments suggested that the school readiness programme increases enrollment rates. Children are more confident in their studies and it’s consequently driving down absenteeism, dropout and repetition rates at the targeted primary schools,” says Thap Kyheu.

As a teacher of the school readiness classes, Ms. Chhat Theavy has been inspired not only by the high performance of her students, but also by the contribution of the parents.

“Some parents bring chairs, some bring small tables to the class for their children to study. I am also happy seeing them sharing their pride about their children’s progress while coming to pick up the children at school,” she says.

Some parents bring chairs, some bring small tables to the class for their children to study.

School readiness is an initiative from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport that started in 2005. However, limited resources had restricted its impact.

Seeing its importance, Plan International Cambodia started to support the intervention in 2015 in 49 schools across 2 districts of Tboung Khmum province. The results of the project will be used to advocate to the government that they should increase funding for the programme.

Watch a video about the impacts of school readiness