The Cambodian education system has dealt with a number of setbacks throughout the establishment of the country's independence. Consequently, the standard of public education in Cambodia is relatively low, especially in comparison to other East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea. However, measures to improve the standard of education have been implemented over the last couple of years.
Most expat parents send their children to a private or international school in Cambodia. While pricey, this option tends to minimise the disruption and discomfort of going to school in a new country.
Public schools in Cambodia
Education on a state level is controlled through the Ministry of Education, and by the Department of Education on a provincial level. Cambodian general education is based on a national school curriculum that consists of two main parts: basic education and upper secondary education.
The language of instruction in public schools is Khmer, meaning that expat children are unlikely to attend a local school.
Even though public education is free in Cambodia, in rural areas the attendance at schools is below average, as children often have to work in order to help their families.
Private and international schools in Cambodia
Private schools in Cambodia tend to operate from a particular religious ideology or foreign curriculum, allowing students to study in their own language or religion.
Unlike public schools, which only teach in Khmer, private and international schools cater to different home languages. This can make the transition of life in Cambodia easier for children. There are a number of international schools that teach foreign curricula such as that of the UK, the US, France, Singapore and more. The language of instruction is typically that of the school's country of origin.
While convenient, these schools do come with a hefty price tag. There are a number of private and international schools located in the capital.
Some schools have an entry assessment prior to accepting a child, and many also require a health check, including vaccine and health records.
Many of the better private and international schools have waiting lists so it’s best to apply in advance.
Special-needs education in Cambodia
With mainstream public education already being extremely under-resourced, there is little support available for students with special educational needs. Historically, such students have been overlooked at best and entirely excluded at worst.
However, more robust support for special-needs education is slowly developing within the private-school sector as funding allows these schools the required resources. The level of support available varies widely from school to school and may come at an additional cost to tuition fees.
Tutors in Cambodia
Though tutors aren't widely used by locals, expat families may find them useful in the move to Cambodia and there are many tutoring companies geared towards expats. Tutors can help ease the adjustment to a new curriculum, or can assist students with learning a new language or maintaining their mother tongue. Tutoring services may also be used in the run-up to important exams such as A-Levels or SATs.
►Culture Shock in Cambodia provides an overview of what to expect of life in the country
"I established contact with a few schools in the city before we arrived and was quickly able to identify the one I felt would be the best match. The staff were welcoming and supportive of our move and arranged a meeting and show-around a few days before term started, to ease the settling-in process. It really helped."
Read more about British expat Clare's experience as a parent in Cambodia.
Are you an expat living in Cambodia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Cambodia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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