Educational Support for Children of Underserved Populations (ESCUP) (2005 – 2008)

Although the right to a basic education is guaranteed to every Cambodian child in the country’s constitution, there continues to be a considerable gap between official policy and reality. The Educational Support for Children of Underserved Populations (ESCUP) Program, funded by USAID, was designed to increase access to and quality of basic education for underserved groups, including the poorest of the poor, disabled children, girls, and minority groups. ESCUP was implemented in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Kratie, and Mondulkiri.

Across these provinces, the program supported a total of 167 primary schools from 22 school clusters and 19 lower secondary schools. The overall program design has three overarching technical components—Access and Quality, Teacher Education, and School-Community Partnerships, and a fourth component, Program Management. The program’s technical approach includes (i) using cluster and secondary school grants as a means of resourcing schools, (ii) using activity menus in the development of school improvement plans, and (iii) utilizing local committees such as Local Cluster School Committees (LCSCs) to implement activities on the ground. Overall, the program seeks to promote the government’s recent adoption of Child Friendly Schools (CFS) as a front line strategy to improve quality in the basic education sector.

Program strategies to improve access involved the provision of scholarships to children at-risk (6,814 beneficiaries since start-up), increased penetration of the countryside through the use of Intermediate Classrooms, and adding extra grade levels to remote schools through the provision of Community Teachers. An important activity that occurred under ESCUP was the expansion of life skills programming, particularly IPM skills. The number of schools providing life skills courses reached 59 schools at primary level.

Over the course of its programming, ESCUP has supported 209 PTTC scholarship students as well as over 235 Community Teachers who are providing instruction to over 10,000 children who otherwise would not have had access to a teacher. A total of 1,043 primary school teachers (396 female), including Community Teachers, worked in program-supported schools and ESCUP provided technical support to about 476 of these teachers. Among secondary schools, there were 309 teachers (87 female) of whom ESCUP provided support to 98.

Repetition rates declined in 72% of schools from the baseline during the final year of the program. In addition, 76% of primary schools indicated a decline in the rate of dropout during the final year as well. Outreach to minority communities, strategies to reduce PTR levels and ease teacher shortages, scholarship support, health outreach to the physically challenged, Intermediate Classrooms, and life skills provisions have all played a major role in this success.

ESCUP Factsheet

Rural Communities Take Charge of Children’s Education

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