The Cambodian education system has dealt with a number of setbacks throughout the establishment of the country's independence. Traditionally, education was handled by the local wat (temple) and was focused on the teachings of Buddhism. After France’s colonisation, a French model was introduced until the Khmer Rouge regime, which resulted in schools being shut down, a shift away from teaching and a dramatic drop in literacy rates. Currently, the system in place is based on the Vietnamese model. 

The Cambodian education system includes pre-school, primary, general secondary, higher education and non-formal education. Children attend school from the age of 6. 

The standard of education in Cambodia is relatively low, especially in comparison to other East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. However, efforts to improve the standard of education have been implemented over the last couple of years.

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, therefore 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

The private schools in Cambodia operate on an ethnic or religious-based admission process, allowing students to study in their own language or within their own religion. Some of the private schools in Cambodia include Chinese-language schools, Vietnamese-language schools, French-language schools, English-language schools, and Khmer-language schools.

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. However, expat parents should bear in mind that these schools 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.

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