KNAR Village Learning Center
In late 2017 we piloted our very first Learning Center in Knar Village. PLF’s model has always been to support and enhance access to quality public education, and opening a Learning Center away from the grounds of the government’s primary school was a new test to that model. One that over the years has proven vastly successful.
In order to enroll at KVLC to gain access to PLF programming (from school supplies to scholarships), students must maintain strong attendance at the government school. This requirement pushes both the students and their families to pursue education levels far beyond what the community typically achieved. In the 2018-2019 school year, 82.5% of the Grade 4-6 students enrolled at Knar Primary were also enrolled at KVLC. That percentage increased to 88.14% in the 2019-2020 school year.
Attendance in our enrichment programs also increased as KVLC students are automatically enrolled in those, whereas before at Knar Primary they needed to sign up specially. At KVLC, students have access to a vast library as well as arts & crafts, music, science, remedial Khmer, and English classes. High school students can also begin computer classes.
Since changing to the Learning Center model, we’ve also seen an increase in parental participation; there’s a level of ownership the community feels over the Learning Center that never seemed to click within the regular school grounds. Being outside the public school also gives us more flexibility in terms of programming and we’ve been able to respond more immediately to the needs and interests of the community. We’ve also opened a Community Library accompanied by adult literacy classes as requested by the parents.
Srayang Learning Center
After the success of KVLC, in August 2020 we expanded the same model to Srayang as the next evolution from our former Srayang dorm. Before this reinvention, only the top 25-30% of graduating 6th graders from Romchek and Koh Ker primary schools could access the secondary school at Srayang, by living at our dorm. Now, we have huge trucks to transport students each morning from both villages, meaning that for the very first time, 100% of all graduates from these rural communities who pass our entrance exam have the opportunity to access secondary school.
Students have their government curriculum at the public school (just across the road!), eat lunch at the Center and then finish up the day with our English Classes, Remedial Khmer and Math classes, Computer class, access to a library, informal study groups, Life Skill Workshops, Chess Clubs, and whatever else we dream up along the way.
In Grade 10, students and their families begin the decision process around applying to the Siem Reap Scholars Dorm. Before 2020, Grade 12 did not exist in Srayang so every student seeking a high school diploma needed to do so in a larger urban center. Now, though, PLF supports students at the Srayang Learning Center through Grade 12, with those who show university potential still able to come to Siem Reap at Grade 11 for our more intensive college preparatory program that is designed to help them succeed at the Phnom Penh universities.
This is a project of PLF Canada, executed by PLF Cambodia.
Siem Reap Urban Learning Center (ULC)
Our newest learning center, opened in 2022, brings to our urban program what PLF rural students have had access to for some time at Srayang and Knar, with extensive learning resources and a lending library of over 2500 titles. But in addition, ULC represents our biggest tech lift ever, comprising an IT lab with 14 terminals and classes available 7 days per week; on-site internet cafe for student use; and research rooms with study guides and online access. It also houses large indoor and outdoor workshop spaces for all the many gatherings, events and mentorship sessions our staff and older students regularly hold.
The need for such a center speaks to the big shift we’ve seen in recent years as to the ever-increasing numbers of urban poor students in Siem Reap. This can in part be attributed to the effects of Covid on a demographic that was previously living just above the poverty line. With tourism grinding to a complete halt for two years, many families experienced a drastic loss of income, and sending their kids to school became almost impossible. In the same period, we also saw increasing numbers of high school walk-ins, coming to PLF for assistance. Most of them are Grade 10 or 11 students who come from more remote areas seeking better schools. Many of them are trying to do that on their own, separated from family or any support network in the city. A lot of them are already on our urban food bank.
While our original mission began in the rural provinces, we recognize that these urban students experience hardships that create the same barriers to inclusion in education. Whether being transplanted in their quest for decent schools, or prey to the devastation of the economy, we wanted to bring them into the fold – while looking upon our ability to do so as mission expansion. The determination they show in pursuing an education tells us that they deserve every ounce of support we can provide, and will go on to make the most of the opportunities provided.