Poverty in Cambodia is strongly related to the poor level of education; the majority of children aged twelve to fourteen are not enrolled in secondary schools, mainly due to high drop-out rates in primary schools. The poor quality and lack of relevance of basic education lie at the heart of this faltering education system.
Furthermore the country is confronted with a continuously growing migration of the rural population – especially young people – from rural areas to the cities. In order to reduce the migration of youth to urban areas it is necessary to provide youth with better education and prospects of livelihood in rural areas. The VVOB intervention therefore focuses on making teaching and learning in basic education more relevant.
VVOB started in 2004 four projects in Cambodia aimed at strengthening the capacity of teacher training centres. These have in the meantime been concluded and transferred to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS). In 2008 the SEAL programme was launched. It meets the above mentioned educational issues and continues to build on the results and experiences of earlier VVOB projects in the country.
The SEAL programme has a threefold target aimed at improving quality of education in Cambodia:
- to improve the teaching skills of the teachers in the primary and lower secondary education;
- to improve the content of the life skills and science courses through the development of pupil oriented teaching materials;
- to develop the necessary materials and provide the related ICT support.
The programme works with the institutes for teacher training and with the affiliated practice schools. The SEAL programme works in the provincial and regional teacher training centres. In the 18 provincial teacher training centres (TTCs) which offer pre-service teacher training for primary education, the focus of the programme is on life skills education. In the six regional teacher training centres which offer pre-service teacher training for lower secondary education, the programme focuses on life skills and science education.
SEAL directly targets teacher trainers and teachers at practice schools affiliated with the selected TTCs. Through them VVOB aims to gradually reach its indirect target groups. One group consists of student teachers – at provincial level for primary education and at regional level for lower secondary education. The other indirect target group are the pupils themselves who will be sitting in the classrooms of those future teachers.
To achieve these targets VVOB cooperates with the MoEYS (VVOB’s strategic partner), and with the teacher training centres at the provincial and regional level (VVOB’s operational partners). Through coordination and cooperation with international organisations such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), UNICEF, Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Open Institute, USAID and World Education, the programme increases its scope.
Strengthening didactic skills
The essence of the SEAL programme is to strengthen the didactic skills of the teachers that graduate from Cambodian teacher training centres. Teacher trainers and trainees learn how to stimulate creative thinking and develop problem solving skills of students. They themselves acquire skills to apply learner centred methodologies in both science and life skills education, and to perform low-cost experiments. These activities help to teach the curriculum in a more attractive and active way.
Technical Working Groups (TWGs) on science and life skills teaching are composed of teacher trainers of the pilot TTCs (and teachers of practice schools). These TWGs are adapting and integrating innovative methodologies to local context and curricula as well as developing learning materials and other resources for improvement of science and life skills teaching. The TWGs find inspiration in organised trips to, for instance, agricultural programmes or to schools, but also in trainings given by (local) consultants. Manuals about training, digital training materials, posters, schedules, micro projects and school gardens are some of the concrete realisations of the TWGs.
Technologies, such as science labs, ICT and multimedia, are considered important supporting tools for teacher training. For example, teacher trainers use simulation software to enhance deeper understanding of science. SEAL focuses on user-friendly technologies that suit the local circumstances and context. Examples include videos, educational posters, flash animations, low-cost experiments, games and so on.
During the pilot stage (2008-2011 in Kandal and Siem Reap) innovative concepts in life skills and science teacher training are introduced and tested. These are reviewed for quality assurance by the central Teacher Training Department of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, before scaling up to other TTCs during the mainstreaming phase (2011-2013, nationwide).
VVOB uses as much as possible the available local knowledge and skills. If such knowledge is not available, VVOB ensures that the local partners can acquire this technical expertise. This leads to a strengthened partner and increases the sustainability of the results. Technical Working Groups on science and life skills teaching are composed of teacher trainers of the pilot TTCs (and teachers of practice schools). A Trainer of Trainer (ToT) team will be selected from the members of the TWGs. These ToT teams will be in charge of the scaling up and follow-up of the programme outcomes in other provinces during the mainstreaming stages, which involve training and coaching their peers in other TTCs as well as monitoring activities.