Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear National and Foreign Guests,
Today I am have a great honor and pleasure for being able to join with all of Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen in the closing of the conference to review the completed tasks of education, youth and sports, while working out the objectives for the coming 2001-2002 school year.
On behalf of the Royal Government and in my own behalf, I wish to express my appreciation and high evaluation to the conference members in providing analysis and exchange of opinions on education, youth and sports for the last school year and in laying out objectives for the next.
Taking this auspicious occasion allow me to offer my sincere appreciation and regards to officials, and teaching staff of all levels in the whole country for their presence in this conference. Through the delegates form various municipals and provinces, I wish to convey my appreciation and regards to all the teaching staff of all levels for the efforts they made in fulfilling the task of providing our children and youth with training. This is an active contributing factor in the restoration and development of the education sector, which is the most important policy in the development strategy, aimed at generating economic growth and poverty reduction.
As HE Im Setthi, Secretary of State for Education, Youth and Sports has mentioned, all topics included for discussion in the conference and the results achieved in this moment are clear response to the Royal Government policy and strategies, which are demanded for further implementation. I remember that recently we have organized an education forum and various round table discussions, like the one held on September 13, 2002 with international organizations and donor countries, aimed at determining education actions in the future. I understand that the education conference could be considered as the education forum mentioned above, and it was in fact further broadening the discussion in a larger scale. We have delegates coming from all provinces and municipals to participate and give out their opinions to reflect strong and weak points from the past year, and to further improve the coming school year. Every round table discussions on education — the first discussion was in 1994, the second discussion was in 2001, and the third discussion that was held recently — has defined its five-year strategic planning and prioritized actions base on a yearly advance in order to respond to new need of national development.
In closing the third national education forum to review the 2002-2006 Education Sector Support Program (ESSP) on September 13, 2002, I proposed ideas in connection with the topic “Education for All” and the strategy for poverty reduction. They are similar to the commitments made by the Royal Government in the Conference on “Education for All” in Dhaka in 2000 that Cambodia will try to achieve the “Education for All” target by year 2015. I have offered my support to the priority ESP and ESSP. The two plans 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. At the same time, we have to continue to implement the Priority Action Plan (PAP) for basic education, which is a strategy to increase enrolment to the maximum of students in primary education in all 24 municipalities-provinces throughout the country. This is implemented with a focus being placed on the students from poor families, female gender, and ethnic minority. Overall, the PAP performance has been highly appreciated and gained gratification from teachers and their parents as an effective and transparent program. Furthermore, the formal education cannot absorb all the children and cannot guarantee all of them the 9-year basic education. Thus, we have turn to the non-formal schooling by making this system more effective and better in 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, while focussing on the improvement of the latter’s education program to that of the formal one. This will also 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”.
In this regard, I understand that for the new school year and the 2002-2006 five-year plan, we have to drive further the Priority Action Plan (PAP), the Education Strategic Plan (ESP), and the Education Sector Support Plan (ESSP), for qualification and efficiency taking the following prioritized activities into consideration:
- 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 and girl children ;
- Improve the quality of secondary education, by linking the education to technical and vocational training to enable the students to quickly acquaint jobs and continue to higher education;
- 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 meet the market requirements;
- Continuous teacher development at all levels through improvements in both new and continued teacher training programs linked to the improvement in the teachers’ living standard, with attention given to women according to gender principle in education;
- 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”.
- Develop activities of youth and sports by mobilizing children and youth to become new forces to take over the national development.
We all know very well that we could not fulfil this task alone. We have to gather assistance from international community and international development organizations. In order to implement these prioritized actions, I think that we have to consolidate further partnership in the development of education sector because if we were to have no further assistance from our partners, we would not be able to realize such an achievement in just a short time.
It is true that many countries are more advanced than Cambodia, especially our neighbors have spent decades to build their countries, to organize their authorities, to educate their people, to develop their economy and to integrate themselves into the international economy. But Cambodia has had to jump over these phases within a short time. We have to fulfil these tasks in just a few years. The reality has required us to do so. It is in this regard that we have to commit for the fulfillment of these tasks by using to the most the resources that we could gather and collect.
While strengthening partnership with international organizations and donor countries, the Royal Government of Cambodia has made all-out efforts aimed at increasing investment in area of education through the provision of an appropriate budget from the national budget and through the contributions that are encouraged from both private and civil society. In the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for the next 3 years, the Royal Government is committed to double the allocations for education sector, including annual recruitment of 5,000 new teachers and increased budget for PAP programs.
These are what I wish to share with you all and to recommend to the conference for consideration while fulfilling the tasks in the new school year and for years to come.
In its efforts to develop the education sector, the Royal Government has been promoting the implementation of initiatives within the framework of regional and international cooperation, especially within the frameworks of ASEAN, the GMS (the Greater Mekong Sub-region) and other cooperation mechanism such as the ASEAN + 3 and ASEAN + 1. In less than two weeks, the First Summit of the Greater Mekong Sub-region and the 8th ASEAN Summit will be held for the first time in Phnom Penh. The most important objective of the meetings was to seek cooperation in human resource development aimed at promoting competition with partner countries as well as in Asia as a whole. This is in fact the best opportunity for Cambodia to learn from experiences and to seek supports from partner countries in the above mechanisms for the sake of realizing the objectives of our education sector.
We have foreseen potentials for cooperation with partner countries, because:
- Their successes in area of human resource development, and
- Their strong points in the development of human resource.
Within the framework of ASEAN, we have launched the ASEAN Integration Initiatives and to seek supports from the +3 countries – China, Japan and South Korea, as well as India, (which is being included this year) for the process. Particularly, in the framework of the GMS, we will urge for the Phnom Penh Plan for Development Management.
I have confidence that the building of mastery and partnership in developing the Cambodian education infrastructure is complementary to one another and would give us a multiple result rather than simple addition. Our strategy is to master the development project and program that is responding to the reality of Cambodia by learning from positive experiences of countries and development partners while expanding the circle and extension of cooperation aimed at seeking support for its strategy and efforts in human resource development.
Having realized the above objectives, we will have a strong human resource, which will become active and leading partner in the regional as well as international cooperation according to one’s own field of superiority. Our wish is to make a prosperous Cambodia, well-educated and cultured people, free-from illiteracy, hungers, all kinds of diseases, and peacefully coexisting with its neighbors. Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government and my own behalf, I wish to offer my sincere appreciation to officials and staff of the MoEYS, professors and teachers, for the efforts they made in fulfilling this task with high professional moral standard despite having to overcome many hardships. At the same time I wish to express my profound gratitude to the national and international communities as well as donor countries for the great contribution they made for the rehabilitation, construction and development of education sector in Cambodia.
To this end, may I wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, all national and foreign guests the five Buddhist blessings. May I declare the closing of the national education conference.