By focusing on educating the youth in Cambodia we are looking to the future, but without high quality teachers we can accomplish nothing. Our teacher support program reaches the government teachers who teach the core curriculum as well as our own extracurricular teachers leading our enrichment programs.
The program is two-fold: enabling teachers to support themselves with a liveable wage, and providing teacher training to continually improve the quality of instruction at the schools we support. Meaningful wages mean teachers can better support themselves, teacher training means they can better support their students.
The government salary for teachers teaching the core curriculum is very low. In the countryside where the schools we are supporting are located, teachers make anywhere from $60-$100 per month depending on their experience. This is an extremely low salary for Cambodia and is certainly not enough to live or support a family on, even in the rural areas where the cost of living is low.
Poor government teacher salaries have lead to the pervasive habit of teachers charging students a fee to attend class. This means that only the students who can afford this fee can attend and finish school, while the poorest students must drop out. It is an elitist system of education access that systematically weeds out the poorest classes, creating a system where the wealthy stay wealthy and the poor stay poor.
To combat this system, we ensure all teachers at the schools we support can obtain a decent salary to support themselves. We pay our extracurricular teacher salaries in full, and supplement the government teacher salary to an equally meaningful wage. Teachers who are paid well are motivated, take their jobs seriously, can afford to focus on their work, and will not have to charge their students to come to school.
While our supplies and uniforms program lies at the heart of promoting access to education, teacher training lies at the heart of making that education high quality. This is especially salient in a country recovering from a genocide that targeted educators. Government teachers in remote areas are often teaching the highest grade they reached themselves, and the need for upskilling is great.
Many of our extracurricular teachers are former PLF students who have themselves completed (or are in the process of completing) university degrees, while others were selected from the community with an eager spirit for learning and passing on that vigor.
All of our teachers have been brought up in a learning environment that favors repetition over creativity, and only those who have graduated from university are fortunate enough to receive pedagogical training.
We provide teacher training to both government and extracurricular teachers by sending them to the local teacher training college, bringing in teachers and teacher trainers from across the world for one-on-one work, and and offering continued education through university scholarships. These opportunities allow our teachers to build on their knowledge with new techniques for review, engaging classroom activities, and broaden their skill sets with knowledge they can take in and make their own.