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, especially in rural areas is low, although it has improved in recent years. Poor government teacher salaries combined with a lack of support from the government to equip rural schools in poor areas, has lead to the pervasive habit of teachers charging students a fee to attend class. Some of it goes in their pocket. Some of it pays for driving 10 km to get some chalk. Regardless, this way of going about things, means that only the students who can pay these fees can attend and finish school, while the poorest students must drop out.
PLF works inside rural public primary schools in two provinces. In these schools, two of which are quire remote, our agreement with the government staff is that we will provide materials, infrastructure, libraries, kindergartens, breakfast, extracurricular classes, teacher training and other supports that makes teaching in a poor community a much better gig. In return they don’t charge the students for classes. The government doesn’t require certain things from the teachers that PLF does; things like keeping accurate attendance, keeping records of scores, keeping any kind of records at all, not allowing cheating, and several other things that we might take for granted. In exchange for learning and then doing these tasks regularly, they are rewarded with a very modest bi-annual bonus, timed at the two moments in the year when people are most needing cash.
PLF has its own staff working alongside government teachers: English Teachers, Librarians, Cooks, IT Teachers, Science, Music and Art Teachers. They are not paid by the government, they are strictly PLF staff, recruited mostly from among our own graduates, now educated and trained and back working in their home communities. Their own children come to our schools. They wheel has turned.
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.