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‘Hungry’ Teachers Need Better Pay, Educator Says

Cambodian school children sit under the shade of tree as they listen to teacher at Trapaing Loeuk primary school in Kampong Speu province.
PHNOM PENH - An increase in teacher salaries and the elimination of administrative corruption are key reforms needed to ensure improved education and competitiveness for Cambodian youths, an educator says.

“Some teachers say that with hungry stomaches, they cannot teach,” Pa Chanroeun, a PhD candidate at Charles Stuart University in Australia, told “Hello VOA” on Monday. “So there must be decent salaries for educational personnel, especially teachers.”

Cambodia’s teachers earn about $100 per month, leading many to resort to low-level bribe-taking to make ends meet. The government has said it cannot afford higher wages for more than 112,000 education personnel nationwide.

The Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, however, is demanding an increase up to $250 per month.

“That is an appropriate demand, because with that amount they can deal with the current living costs,” said Pa Chanroeun, who is also a senior lecturer at a private university in Phnom Penh.

He said the increase in teacher salaries can be done with the introduction of a better tax system and the elimination of corruption within the educational administration itself.

“The most important point is whether or not the new Minister of Education is willing to fire any corrupt education officials,” he said, referring to Hang Chuon Naron, the newly appointed minister.

Corruption is endemic within the education system, including during exam time, when students find ways of getting exam copies ahead of time or bribe proctors in order to cheat.

“Whether the new minister is willing to extract the worms out of its own flesh or not depends on three things,” Pa Chanroeun said: “political will, political will and political will.”

Hang Chuon Naron said on Monday he plans to take measures to eliminate corruption and bribery “to promote respect for teachers and restore the honor of teachers.”

However, specific measures to be taken by the minister remain to be seen.

“The people today have become concerned about national issues and have been following the actions of the leaders of government, so if they fail to act on their reform promises, the people will eventually punish them in the next elections,” Pa Chanroeun said.