As school dropout prevention progresses, low family income continues to be the key factor leaving students behind, an education expert says.
Chea Kosal, country coordinator for the School Dropout Prevention Pilot Program at the development organization Kampuchean Action for Primary Education, or Kape, told VOA Khmer in Washington that the dropout rate in secondary school and high school is still high, but reforming school curriculum to improve basic skills can help.
The interview just before First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to land in Cambodia Friday, to promote her international “Let Girls Learn” initiative.
Although Cambodia has seen high enrollment at primary schools, about 95 percent, the rate of students dropping out of secondary and high school remains a problem. To keep students in school, the School Dropout Prevention Pilot Program, funded by USAID, is under way.
Kape is implementing two interventions, an “early warning system” and computer labs, to prevent dropouts.
The former has teachers and parents work together to prevent possible dropouts, while the latter provides computer skills and to build interest in school, Chea Kosal said.
“As students face demands to help make income in the family, they are likely to be absent from school,” he said. “This in turn can potentially contribute to poor performance, and students are likely to drop out.”
Girls are much more likely to quit school than boys, due to widespread traditional values in the countryside. “With limited resources, Cambodian parents are more willing to send their boys to school than girls,” Chea Kosal said, adding that parents need to change such perceptions.
Because this is a systematic issue, he suggested that teachers, parents and policymakers must all work to prevent dropouts.
“Training teachers to be creative with lesson planning can help students learn more effectively and build interest in learning,” he said. “Parents must ensure that their children spend sufficient and quality time at home revising the lesson.”
Staying in school can also help a family’s income, he said. After graduation, students are much better prepared to enter the job market.