About Education In Cambodia | Hope Agency

Education in Cambodia

The education system in Cambodia has seen tremendous growth in the last few decades. Under the Constitution of Cambodia, every citizen has the right to an education in order to give them fair opportunities to earn a living. This includes literacy and numeracy, along with technical education, technological education, sports and research development.

The education system in Cambodia is headed by the Ministry of Education at the national level and by the Department of Education at the provincial level. The Minister of Education is Hang Chuon Naron and the language of instruction is Khmer.

Three different types of preschools can be found in Cambodia today and are either state-run, community-run or home-run. The state-run preschools are the most prestigious and have the most qualified teachers. The classrooms are similar to those in the western world and there is access to learning material, proper sanitation and running water. Community-run preschools are not as prestigious and teachers receive a small stipend each month for their service. Classes are normally held at the teacher's house and are normally overcrowded. Home-run preschools are more intimate and are not all subsidized by the government. Some funding comes from the local commerce councils or NGOs or even out of pocket such as our project HOPE AGENCY!

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education has also increased significantly and more focus has been given to technology and science.International students have also opted to study in Cambodia and bursaries, scholarships and awards have been given to students from Asia and the rest of the world.


Some challenges to the education system today include a lack of resources, shortage, and incompetence of teachers, gender disparity, scarcity of schools in rural areas, low attendance, dropout, and poverty. Much of Cambodia's tertiary education is also not recognized internationally. In order to overcome these challenges, the government has implemented a number of strategies. Several NGOs have also made monetary donations. and have provided aid through education and training.


Before the implementation of the education system now found in Cambodia, the Traditional Buddhist education was the only form of formal education. This system was headed by the Ministry of Religion under whom Bhikkhu or monks acted as teachers. Almost all the students were male and they were taught the history of the Buddhist religion along with its doctrine and why they should strive to gain merits. Secondary education lasted three years and after that students would go on to study at lycÈes and later the Buddhist University in Phnom Penh. Students were taught the history and geography of Cambodia, hygiene, agriculture, and science.

The Education System


Private schools were implemented mainly by minority groups such as the English, Germans, Chinese and Europeans who taught their children about their culture and instructed them in their native languages. Private secondary and tertiary institutions were also implemented.


When the French took control of Cambodia in the early 20th century they tried to develop the country economically and put certain measures in place to increase literacy and numeracy among the Cambodian people. As a result, Cambodia adopted the French model of education which was divided into four main categories namely primary, secondary, higher and specialised education. The French saw to it that competent teachers were hired and paid, created appropriate syllabi, provided the resources and materials needed to make schooling easier and also carried out regular inspections of schools to ensure they were up to a certain standard.

Primary Education: The primary education level was divided into two stages that consisted of three years each. It consisted mainly of math, history, ethics, civics, geography, language, science and other subjects and was taught in state and temple-run schools. Primary education also included manual work and physical education. After completing the first stage of primary education students would receive a certificate which would allow them to move on to the next stage.

 In the second of the three-year stages, the language of instruction switched from Khmer to French. Another certificate would be awarded for the completion of primary education which allowed students to move on to the secondary level

Secondary Education: This level was also divided into two stages of four then three years taught at a college and lycee respectively. The advance to the second stage is similar to that of the primary level as students needed a certificate/diploma to advance to the next stage. The main subjects taught at the secondary level were mathematics, "letters" and technology along with agriculture and biology. Secondary education was later reduced from seven to six years

Higher Education: Prior to the 1950s, the higher education system was largely underdeveloped. The only facility for acquiring higher education was the National Institute of Legal, Political and Economic Studies who catered to future civil servants. Those who could afford it went abroad to university in France, China, the Soviet Union, the United States and Canada. The University of Phnom Penh, the University of Fine Arts, the University of Agricultural Sciences are among a few universities who opened in later years and offered teacher training, medicine, law and economics, science and technology, humanities, and other courses to students.

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