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Ensure Proper Use Of Education Budget To Ensure Effectiveness Of Education, PM Says

Primary school students arrive at school in new school year in Phnom Penh on December 4, 2023.(CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)
Primary school students arrive at school in new school year in Phnom Penh on December 4, 2023.(CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)

To ensure the effectiveness of education, Cambodia has to plan its education budget with a clear direction, the Prime Minister said, however, social observers emphasized the need for accountability and transparency, and for corruption to be eliminated.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony and the inauguration of a teachers’ dormitory at the Phnom Penh Teacher Education College on July 4, Hun Manet said the national budget for education was the largest. In 2020, the budget was $782 million, and in 2024, it reached $911 million. 

“We will continue to raise it because education is a priority,” he said, adding that improving education was not only about the education infrastructure, but also about improving the quality of education.

However, increasing the budget does not guarantee efficiency because “sometimes large budgets do not have a clear plan, so the vision is wasted”.

“Drawing up a budget in the right direction with a clear plan will ensure efficiency. The increase [of the budget] is a guarantee,” Hun Manet said. 

He acknowledged that there was a shortage of teachers at the local level, especially those with high school diplomas and the additional training for teachers for four years (12+4), however, the government has already set the direction to resolve this. 

Meanwhile, Cambodia faced other challenges, such as the capabilities of teachers and learning infrastructure. He also said the selection of principals was important and that there should be a proper standard for recruitment. 

In the past, there were trials in Battambang province that allowed the recruitment of primary school principals at the district level. About 70% were successfully recruited in line with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport’s (MoEYS) standards, but 30% did not observe the standards.

Hun Manet said “even if 1% of principals, nevermind 30%, were not selected based on the standards, it would be difficult”.

“Because, a principal is the leader of an institution,” he added. “So, we suspended the recruitment at the district level to allow the provincial level to do it again.” 

The World Bank discovered ineffective human resource management and a budget that was primarily driven by wages in the education sector in a study earlier this year. 

It said 78% of the budget for education goes to wages, and there is a disparity in the distribution of teachers in the field. Between 2018 and 2021, Phnom Penh saw an excess of teachers while the provinces saw a shortage. There was a net teacher shortage of 19,867 in rural areas in 2021. In certain subject areas, there was a shortage and surplus of teachers. 

Khuon Vichheka, spokesperson of MoEYS, told CamboJA News that the problem of teaching capacity was a result of teachers, who were trained before 2014, failing to have bachelor degrees or diplomas, and have yet to retire.

“In order to solve the shortage, the ministry hires contract teachers for local schools but [they must] at least have [high school] diplomas,” she said. “A key challenge we face is the lack of teachers with bachelor degrees, which we continue to resolve by training them [as per] the 12+4 system.” 

With regards to that, the government has implemented supporting policies such as the Action Plan for Teacher Policy 2024-2030 including the Professional Standards for Trainers and Standards for Model Teacher Education College, and improved teaching policies.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy head Pa Chanroeun said Cambodia has made a lot of effort to reform the education sector, including improving the quality of teachers and the management of the education sector. However, the World Bank’s study showed many problems in the education sector. 

“The expenditures are not very effective in [terms of] reform. As a result, we see that there are many problems related to the quality of teachers and students’ [level of] learning,” he said, adding that the issues need more attention and evaluation, and ways to solve them, as well as using the budget effectively.

The World Bank study found that Cambodia spent more on education, but the results were less effective. So, it was necessary to examine the efficiency of the budget with direction, transparency and accountability in order to ensure that the budget spent on education met the actual needs.

“[We] have to eliminate corruption in the sector to ensure that policy implementation and budgeting are transparent, accountable and efficient,” Chanroeun said.

However, this should start with policy makers and stakeholders. Experimenting with the policy should also not take long.

“For our education sector, all reforms must have multi-stakeholders to collect input, reflect on issues and implement clear strategies and action plans, and the goals of education should not change much,” Chanroeun said.

He also encouraged Cambodia to draw on neighboring countries’ and regional experiences, what they do well in teaching and learning materials, and then compare that with the country. 

The World Bank said in order to ensure that the education expenditure was more effective, governments could improve teacher recruitment, deployment, and training as well as make school operation funding more responsive to the requirements for each school.

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