The Challenge

Educational inequity is one of Cambodia’s greatest crisis; it is severely diminishing the life opportunities of many children and holding the nation back from reaching its 2050 vision of becoming a developed economy. Where children are born can determine their educational, and perhaps, life trajectory:

  • Only 1 in 10 children who start school in Cambodia today will finish high school. [1]
  • Grade 9 students perform at the same level in math and vocabulary as out-of-school children of the same age. [2]
  • Gross university enrollment rate in Cambodia is just over 15 percent—one of the lowest in Southeast Asia. [3]

These statistics do not reflect the true potential of our children. Instead, it tells us that there is a deeply systemic problem—one that isn’t the fault of a single actor but multiple underlying root causes.

Three Factors

Teach For Cambodia has identified three factors forming a cycle that produces and perpetuates educational inequity in Cambodia:

Socioeconomic Factors:  Parents of disadvantaged children have limited knowledge, resources and capacity to provide support for their children’s learning. Many children work while attending schools; some are even forced to drop out and become child laborers. According to the National Institute of Statistics, 1 in 5 children aged 5-17 were economically active in 2012; nearly half of these working children had dropped out of schools. 48% of these economically active children come from parents with only a primary school education. Additionally, school directors report that growing microfinance debt has played a role in the rising dropout rate among secondary school children.

School System Factors: 84% of all Cambodian teachers do not have a Bachelor’s degree. Teachers are paid 60% of the salary received by employees of similar backgrounds and skills in the private sector. There have not been any successful interventions that have solved the MoEYS’ fundamental problem with teacher supply. In 2012 and 2013, more than 2,000 teachers left the teaching profession. Particularly, attrition rates are increasing at the upper-secondary level which creates major supply problems and lower teaching quality.

Prevailing Belief Factors: Far too many children in Cambodia show up in schools that set low expectations for them. Many educators and school leaders lack the commitment to put our children on a different educational trajectory.

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[1] Education Statistics and Indicators, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport
[2] World Bank Report
[3] Cambodian Development Research Institute