Tchey 2019 Opening Day

In the beginning, PLF operated only in rural primary schools – of which Tchey was one. Even while looking beyond the primary school boundary towards high school and beyond, all projects were deployed from inside the primary school: English classes, Tech courses, Workshops …

Around 2018, we began to outgrow that model and started transitioning away from the primaries – physically relocating to our own learning centers as close as possible to the secondary school that students would track to, while including the community as part of the catchment. And then we got busy expanding student enrolment.

Tchey high school enrolment
Bike distribution for Tchey high school
Tchey high school student
Tchey high school students

We did this first at Knar, then at Srayang. In April 2022 we launched an Urban Learning Center in Siem Reap. The final transition will now be at Tchey.

Normally we position ourselves in the very center of catchment. In creating the new Learning Center in Siem Reap city, we found a location right between the two high schools our urban students attend, making it easy for them to get there. On bikes, in the evening. 

At Tchey there are also two very good high schools that students track to:

  1. Samdach Oev, on the outskirts of Siem Reap proper 
  2. Puok High School, very progressive and well-funded by a thriving middle class 

The center of those two points is exactly where Tchey Primary stands. Therefore the location needed to be somewhere inside this pink square to be accessible to the entire catchment. 

Tchey Primary location

However, having scouted locations for this final piece of our jigsaw, we can say with much certainty that this building does not already exist in Tchey! This has been a major challenge for us. The need for expansion of services to our high school students in the Tchey area is greater than ever.

Tchey high school enrolment 2019

The positive factors that combine to make Tchey’s ‘secret sauce’ mean the kids there engage at a high level in everything PLF puts forth. Any program that we roll out there is always strongly embraced, well-piloted and successful as a result, making them easy to roll out at other locations.  

Tchey certificate distribution

Currently Tchey students represent about 40% of total high school scholarships awarded; only a few % behind Urban and climbing. And over the last four years they have taken an average of 22% of all University scholarships awarded. Having inevitably lost some shares during COVID, they are recovering this year:

% of G12 scholarships awarded 2021-22 by location
Tchey share of university scholarships 2018 - 2022
G12 scholarships Chey 2021

2021 Grade 12 cohort from Tchey

It is therefore paramount that we find a way to extend our support and programs to keep the students of Tchey on the right path to high school, through a learning center that is easily and equally accessible, whether they track to Siem Reap or Puok.

We won’t be daunted, and if a building doesn’t already exist, we’re rolling out plan B. 

Due to positive socio-economic factors in the last ten years, the communities around Tchey have generally stabilized and improved. A middle class has emerged that can send its kids to private schools in either Siem Reap or Puok. Slowly the number of students at Tchey Primary has dwindled from over 1,000 students since that time to around 600 now. What we are left with at Tchey are the “average students” whose families don’t have enough money to send them to private school. Tchey is a huge campus and now has a number of vacant classrooms as a result. 

PLF already has three of those classrooms which hold the projects we were intent on moving out: two English classes and the Lab. And the great news is that the Principal has agreed to give us however many classrooms we feel we need to set up our Learning Center onsite. 

Workshops at Tchey
Tchey media lab

While the pain point of being inside the public schools at Knar and Srayang was having to deal with a DISTRICT level of the Ministry of Education, at Tchey this is greatly mitigated as we deal with the higher PROVINCIAL level which is a much easier negotiation. They know how to do paperwork, they don’t create obstacles, they are more familiar with the pure scope of PLF and are largely helpful facilitators

The advantages are that startup will be much, MUCH cheaper. We’ve been present at Tchey school for 15 years already and we won’t have the cost of rebuilding a facility from scratch to make it work for us. We are already familiar with it as a location, and importantly the parents and students also. Tchey Primary is a secure facility, on a major, well-lit paved road; the one that students already traverse and have traversed for years. 

Tchey students cycling home on distribution day

Below is a chart showing the number of students currently enrolled in each after-school program at Tchey. This is our starting point:

Tchey Students by Course as of May 2022

Instead of taking up time and effort with facility creation, from here we commit purely to building out our programs – eLearning is already taking off and IT will double when our new Explore lab goes in.

Sometimes in scouting around for the piece you thought you were missing, you realize the answer was right there in front of you all along!

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