Ladies and Gentlemen,
My warmest greetings to you all,
I am very pleased and honored to join you this afternoon, to help bring to a close this National Education Forum to review the Education Sector Support Program (ESSP) for 2002-2006.
In behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own self, I wish to congratulate and sincerely appreciate the management and staff of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) as well as the national and international experts for their efforts in organizing this important conference successfully. Those efforts helped bring noticeable and encouraging outcomes, which H.E. Tol Lah, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) has raised in his sum-up report earlier.
In June 2001, this place where I participated in the Second Round Table Meeting on Education Development following the first meeting which was held in 1994 at the Cambodiana Hotel. Thus, in other word, this National Education Forum is the Third Round Table Meeting which is convened to review the Education Strategic Plan (ESP). I remember that during the second meeting we have approved the ESP and the ESSP for 2001-2005, which were fully supported by the Royal Government of Cambodia.
In my closing remarks to the Second Round Table Meeting, I contributed some concepts and visions regarding the implementation of the government policies in the education reform under the theme: “Role of education in poverty reduction of the population.”
This ESP and ESSP for 2001-2005 have been implemented for only one year (2001-2002), but I believe it is an appropriate period for assessing its strengths and weaknesses, based on which we make improvements and correction to the next subsequent plans (2002-2006) to be of high quality and effectivity for further implementation. In that way, this rolling plan and program means more flexibility for the review and adjustments, appropriately responding to the changing social and economic development needs of the country.
In general, the Royal Government has made significant progress in education sector during the past decade. In the eightieth and ninetieth, we have gone through a phase of the rehabilitation of the education system; by reopening of many schools at all grades, community-led rehabilitation of facilities, gradual curriculum reform and emergency deployment and training of the teaching service. Currently, we are shifting our priorities from rehabilitation to focusing mainly on the strengthening of the fundamentals of the education sector and on improving the education quality, through continued restoration of buildings, supply of textbooks, expanded teacher training and efforts to improve examinations.
The Education Forum this day, again, signifies the transition into a new stage of education development, which closely links to the overall framework of a comprehensive and systematic, national socio-economic development. As long-term vision for education, we develop the linkage to broader poverty reduction strategies by integrating the education financing plans into public expenditure planning and management. In this context, the Royal Government considers education as a main pillar of the poverty reduction strategy. Reform measures, aimed at improving the education system, will help us producing quality and skilled human resource for the developments in all sectors, namely, the socio-economic, cultural, and political developments. The Second Five Year Socio-Economic Development Plan (SEDPII) has clearly indicated that: “Sustainable economic growth, sound social development and good governance are complementing to each other and are the determining factors for success in our efforts to reduce the poverty”.
Given this importance as indicated earlier, I wish to contribute some ideas related to the theme: “Education for All and Key Strategies of Poverty Reduction” with the following points:
First, Education for All: the Royal Government has made a commitment in the Conference on “Education for All” in Dhaka in 2000 to achieve the “Education for All” target by year 2015. Realizing this overarching goal, I agree and support the priority ESP and ESSP which strategically focus on 9 year basic education by promoting the enrolment up to 2.4 million in primary schools (from grade 1 to 6) and up to 0.8 million in the secondary schools (from grade 7 to 9) by the year 2005.
Actually, the overall enrolment in primary schools has risen from 1.9 million in 1996 to over 2.7 million in 2001, representing an increase of 42% in the last five years. This enrolment growth and volume exceeds our projection in the plan. Since the introduction of the Priority Action Plan (PAP) for basic education, enrolment has risen from 2.2 million to 2.7 million, representing an increase of around 23% in the last two years. In addition, since 1999, girls’ enrolment has increased from 1.01 million to 1.26 million representing an increase of 26% in three years, which is mainly because of the elimination of start of year fees. Indeed, this growth rate is not adequate to ensure a long term gender equality in the Cambodia society. We should set out new measures to increase the number of girl students, especially providing them opportunity to move to higher classes. Nevertheless, the introduction of PAP for basic education has indeed contributed to the increased share of girls’ enrolment, which has risen from 42.8% in 1999 to 45.2% in 2001.
The introduction of PAP for basic education, combined with the 2001 abolition of start of year fees, has sustained primary school enrolment growth in all 24 provinces and municipalities in the Kingdom of Cambodia. This also has had positive impact on primary enrolment in ethnic minority areas. The combined enrolment in Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri has risen from around 14,000 to over 19,000 in the past twelve months, an increase of around 35%, while girls’ enrolment has risen by 42% compared to 30% for boys. However, we are yet fully satisfied with this, as the overall enrolment and admission rates in Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri remain too low, – 52% and 59% respectively. This induces us to review and develop specific and viable strategies to address the unique access constraints in ethnic minority areas, such as the development of bilingual curricula and programs where Khmer is a core language, the provision of scholarships and the training of ethnic minority teachers.
Under PAP, we have set out specific measures to target budget allocations for small and remote schools. For example, a school of 200 pupils has an effective per student allocation of around Riel 7,800. In comparison, a school of 2,000 pupils has a per capita allocation of only Riel 5,500. Thus, we found out that the average per student allocation in Rattanakiri was around Riel 10,000, compared to around Riel 5,500 in Phnom Penh. Therefore, provinces with many smaller schools, usually with high poverty incidence and low enrolment, are now receiving differentially larger allocations. This is an incentive measure for small schools in rural poor areas, helping improve the education quality there and provide better access to education for pupils from poor families.
Overall, the PAP performance has been highly appreciated and the results are encouraging. A survey 2002 indicated that more than 90% of teachers satisfied with the PAP and they are of the opinion that PAP spending decisions were conducted in a transparent manner.
Based on the reality of Cambodia, while the need for education keeps increasing from year to year, the Royal Government realizes that the formal education cannot absorb all the children and cannot guarantee all of them the 9-year basic education. Thus, we should turn to the non-formal schooling by making this system more effective and better quality. This is to ensure that all children and adults are entitled to basic education equitably without discrimination on sex, races or their social status.
The key rational behind the use of non-formal education is to guarantee access to education for every adult and out of school youth through improvements in the general education curricula linked to vocational and behavioral training. This will enable them to be well prepared for future careers, which is the main purpose of the Royal Government’s education policy for a “universal 9-year basic education linked to literacy and vocational training.”
Thus, I wish to reaffirm the Royal Government’s support of the MoEYS’s initiative to eliminate the start of year fees contribution and the needs for other specific interventions to help the poor by offering scholarships, building campuses for students from poor families especially for girls through the implementation of PAP which helps the disbursements to the MoEYS timely and effectively. The special treatment for the poor would not be limited only to the 9-year basic education; this should be expanded, providing many more opportunities for them to enter the upper secondary schools and to the universities.
Second, Continued Capacity Building for Implementation of Priority ESP and ESSP: As implemented one year already, the priority ESSP is designed to achieve the policies and strategies as stipulated in the ESP. Now on, from 2002 to 2006, I think we should continue on building and upgrading the capacity in all fields to implement the ESSP to be highly effective, using the “education for all approach” as a main instrument to reduce the poverty of our people.
The strategy of building and developing of education for poverty reduction requires more funding for capacity building in all components, which especially include the followings:
- Strengthen the quality of basic education to ensure equitable and increased rate of enrolment, reduced retention and drop out rate providing facilitation and greater opportunity for poor children;
- Improve the quality of secondary schools education, linking the education to technical and vocational training to enable the students to quickly acquaint jobs and continue to higher education including for the poor students;
- Strengthen the quality of higher education, by improving academic curricula and standards to the levels of neighboring countries in the region and to the levels that meets the market requirements;
- Continuous teacher development at all levels through improvements in both new and continued teachers training programs linked to the improvement in the teachers’ living standard;
- Develop sustainable provision of core instructional material in term of equipment and facilities in schools and educational institutions, which are the prerequisite for quality and effective teaching services;
- Expand the non-formal education system, improving training programs for literacy and complementary education, and re-entry programs, providing the opportunities for disadvantaged people, adults and children, to get the basic education toward the objective of “education for all”.
These are the six important components of the ESSP, which will support the strategy for poverty reduction.
Third, Strengthening Partnership: At this point, I wish again to indicate that, in the 2000 CG meeting in Paris and the 2001 CG meeting in Tokyo, we have discussed with the assistance partners on the need for strengthening the partnership, specifically focusing on improving the government’s leadership and ownership in developing the nation.
Thus, I support the MoEYS, the assistance partners and all the NGOs, who are in agreement to seek and shape a new form of an effective partnership. This reflects the change in the behavior from the “donorship” to a real partnership that helps facilitate the assistance programs to meet the targets. While, together, we will succeed in developing the education system in Cambodia, achieving the a long-term objective of “education for all for the poverty reduction“.
Fourth, Promoting the ESSP: Throughout this Third National Education Forum, the ESSP have been reviewed and improved for implementation in the next 5 years (2002-2006).
I wish to sincerely congratulate and support the outcomes of this review making significant improvements to this rolling plan, which is more flexible and better coordinated. To take this floor, I wish to emphasize that the Dhaka Declaration on “Education for All” would not be realized easily and quickly if there would be no further support from our assistance partners. To promote the ESSP to be more successful, I call for the donors and the NGOs to continue their assistance and support to the education development in Cambodia.
The Education Forum this day presents an excellent opportunity for the Royal Government to reaffirm its commitment to promote an effective implementation of this strategic plan. As the head of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I will make any effort to constantly and effectively enforce the implementation, monitoring and control mechanism for this plan within the context of a packaged development with other sectors. This is aimed at achieving three important complementary objectives: (i) ensure long-term higher economic growth; (ii) promote sound social development for a highly educated, healthy and dignified society; and (iii) strengthen good governance that helps people at all walks of life to equitably benefit from the former two factors.
To ensure the success of the ESP, the Royal Government will facilitate the coordination and cooperation among concerned government’s agencies, seek for support and assistance from friendly countries, national and international community, and especially attract private sector participation in this process. So far, the government has increased the disbursements for education more than threefold in 3 years from 1999-2001. In the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for the next 3 years, the government is committed to double the allocations for education sector, including annual recruitment of 5,000 new teachers and increased budget for PAP programs.
To take this opportunity, I wish to thank all the educators at all levels, as well as the Buddhist monks, parents and families, communities and the local authorities for their efforts in performing their respective role and functions successfully in the past 2001-2002 period. To move forward the ESSP 2002-2006, I wish to appeal to all the compatriots to help build and develop a quality and effective education system for our children with the motto of “Education for All and All for the Education“.
In short, the Royal Government of Cambodia considers education as an important pillar of the poverty reduction strategy, which is clearly reflected in the SEDPII, 2000-2005. Specifically, the equitable access to basic education for every children and adults is an effective mean to insert power, freedom and democracy to people and help them to become educated and skillful for earning their living as well as to contribute to the defending, building and developing our nation.
In this sense, the Royal Government is paying close attention to fine-tuning and implementing the ESP and the ESSP, and requests for further support from donors and all kinds of contributions from NGOs and the private sector.
In closing, with warmest appreciation, I would like to give all of you who present in this Third National Education Forum, the five gems of Buddhist wishes. Thank you and good day!