Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New school at SokSan village?

We had the opportunity to visit a remote village in Santuk district. Santuk is the district just north of Baray, and this village in an area called Kom Pup Om Bel, is about 10kms deeper than our last village school in Andaut.

In some ways the village is reminiscent of a previous village we visited, Tropeang Russei, in that it is kind of a re-settlement village with new families. The land seems rather dry and ill-suited for farming, Tapioca (casava) appears to be a major crop. There seems to be Chinese/Vietnamese industrial influences all around, though not really visible. The village itself is rather sparse and scattered although there are supposedly 400 families living in the area. No schools noted, although there was mention of a school set up for workers in these Chinese/Vietnamese concerns.

The headman is young, active and supportive of the educational mission. Samrong Church (Ps Kea) has a member Ps Cheat who is prepared to move into the community with his family. One of his family members run a provision shop and pharmacy.

A 3 classroom school plus a drill well will cost us about US$30K. Should we? The village has already identified the land for the school.

from 3rd from left - headman, Ps Cheat, Ps Kea and me

One session schools

Since the late 1980s, the Ministry of Education is Singapore has been moving our education system towards one session schools. The target is that by 2016, all primary schools in Singapore will only be one sessions schools. I can imagine it is a logistically and operationally difficult exercise. That it has taken 30 years to get to this stages gives an idea of how difficult this journey can be.

In Cambodia, the schools are all double-sessioned, and plagued by corruption and cheating. The quality of education is suspect and the schools system runs in parallel with a corrupt private tuition scheme. Brehm & Silova (2014) has written an excellent review of this complex and dishonest system operating in Cambodia. Recently, the government appears to be making some attempts to deal with these problems and to improve the quality of education in Cambodia. The recent moves to crack down on corruption at the Grade 12 exams resulted in massive numbers of failures and considerable grief to the students accustomed to being able to cheat their way through the exams.

They have also made moves to improve teacher salaries. What we heard in the villages is that together with salary increases, the government is also banning teachers from teaching over two sessions. We do not know what the implications will be for classroom utilization. The assumption is that teachers will teach only one session, and students will therefore have to get used to a one session school. However, this does not appear to be the case. Schools will continue to operate over two sessions, so technically there will be twice the numbers of teachers.

The schools we had built in the past years are now fully occupied. Three classrooms operating two sessions handle students over Grades 1-6. Currently there appears to be no demand for extra space, should schools move towards a one session system.

We are keeping our eyes on these developments.

School@Phum Leav