A Cambodian official reported last week that about 23 percent of children in three provinces along the border with Thailand have stopped attending school.
Cambodian Education Minister Hangchuon Naron spoke at a conference about the student dropout rate. He said that the rate in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Oddor Meanchey provinces was much higher than in other areas, where rates are 18 to 19 percent.
The education minister blamed poverty and parents who move to Thailand for work as the main reasons for the problem.
Cambodia’s education ministry has begun training teachers to advise students to stay in school, while letting them choose their own study subjects. Teachers are also to advise students whose parents work overseas about the importance of education.
Hangchuon Naron said, “So if teachers advise the students [to stay in school] that will help them to make the right decision. They could explain to those students that they need to pursue their studies successfully and then find local jobs [afterward] as well.”
But critics have expressed concern about the education ministry’s plan.
Ouk Chay Vy is president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association. She said the plan fails to deal with the issues that cause students to drop out of school.
She says those reasons are poverty resulting from unemployment and a lack of land for farming. She noted that, in Cambodia, many students stop going to school because they need to work to support their families.
Ouk Chay Vy said a better plan would be for the government to try to increase the number of jobs so that citizens could have better living conditions.
“If the government could give them help, it would still not be enough,” she added.
Suon Sinuon is a farmer from Banteay Meanchey. She said that three of her children dropped out of school while they were in the sixth and ninth grades. They went to Thailand to work and help support the family.
She said that the children did not want to stop going to school, but had no other choice because of the family’s needs. She added, “Others who have enough money don’t let their children migrate, but me, I am so poor that I had to let them go work in Thailand.”
Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor reports that more than one million Cambodians are working in Thailand. The education minister said that most of them come from the provinces along the Thai border.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Radio Free Asia reported this story. Jonathan Evans adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
province – n. any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into
migrate – v. to move from one country or place to live or work in another
pursue – v. to follow and try to catch or capture someone or something for usually a long distance or time