Today, Cambodia celebrates its 7th annual National Reading Day. Each year on March 11, the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS) hosts a nationwide event to promote the joy and value of reading, cultivate a culture of reading and lifelong learning, and celebrate the country’s success in improving reading outcomes.
Improving literacy and reading outcomes has been a national priority for MoEYS since 2010 when a study conducted by the World Bank revealed disappointing reading achievement scores. According to the test results, 54% of students who finished first grade could not read at an “acceptable level.” In the years since, MoEYS and its development partners, including World Education, have focused their efforts on achieving sustainable, measurable improvements in reading performance amongst all students in Cambodia.
In honor of National Reading Day, we are highlighting some of the ways in which World Education has contributed to improved reading outcomes in Cambodian schools while also encouraging a culture of reading at home.
Teacher Professional Development
Reading outcomes cannot be improved without a highly skilled and well-trained teaching force. By supporting teachers’ ongoing professional development through the provision of in-service teacher training, intensive one-on-one coaching and mentoring, and the development of virtual professional learning communities, World Education has helped to ensure that early grade teachers have all of the skills, knowledge, and support they need to effectively teach their students how to read and write.
Since 2012, World Education has worked to develop supplemental teaching and learning materials that support the Ministry’s current reading curriculum, enhance teaching methods, and support student learning and achievement. From developing reading toolkits containing a range of learning games that target specific reading skills to working collaboratively with MoEYS staff and other NGOs to create a new package of Early Grade Reading teacher training, teaching, and learning materials, World Education has played a key role in ensuring that students and teachers have access to high-quality Khmer literacy materials.
School-Based Management and Leadership
School leadership plays a key role in improving early grade reading outcomes by fostering a positive, supportive school environment for educators and learners alike. By implementing trainings focused on school management and leadership and the Ministry’s Early Grade Reading package, World Education has built the capacity of thousands of school directors and administrators across the country.
Caregiver and Community Engagement
Increased caregiver engagement not only positively impacts student achievement in the classroom, it also helps to build a culture of reading at home. Over the years, World Education has applied numerous strategies in efforts to foster closer caregiver involvement with reading. This has ranged from home visits by teachers and literacy coaches, progress report cards and encouraging caregivers to borrow school library books and reading toolkits for use at home, to parent-teacher conferences and whole-school reading fairs. More recently, when schools were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, World Education went to every length to support caregivers. For those with digital access, teachers were trained how to enroll caregivers in instant messaging groups so they could be sent daily activities, worksheets and guidance videos aligned with the Khmer textbook and new reading package. In order to reach those without access to a smartphone or the internet, teachers also made regular phone calls to caregivers and offered reading guidance using carefully prepared scripts. An automated system of free, interactive twice-weekly phone messages about how to help their child develop early Khmer literacy skills was also trialed across 4 provinces. Additionally, hard copy Home Learning Booklets were developed by MoEYS with technical assistance from World Education experts, which were distributed by development partners to all children nationwide, along with supplementary reading books.
Known as a pioneer for its use of technology solutions in the education sector in Cambodia, World Education has led the way in early efforts to harness technology towards improved reading outcomes. In addition to developing a digitized and automated early-grade reading formative assessment, World Education also created the Aan Khmer app, an educational game that reinforces basic literacy skills in the school curriculum through fun, interactive lessons. Recently, World Education worked in close collaboration with MoEYS and JSI to digitize the textbook supply chain in Cambodia, helping to guarantee that schools receive their textbooks and students have access to the learning materials they need to learn and succeed.
Looking to the future, World Education is poised to expand its support to MoEYS in the further rollout of the early learning package across the nation. With plans to assist in the training of teachers in multiple new provinces, development of the MoEYS Grade 3 literacy materials, implementation of the new school-based mentoring system and school-based management reforms, World Education looks forward to promoting continued progress in reading outcomes among Cambodia’s young learners.