As Ambassador, I’ve had the privilege to meet many Cambodian students in my travels around the country. My message to them is that a good education is the key that opens the door to greater opportunities in the future. That is why I am deeply concerned that despite improvements in recent years in the areas of access and quality of education, keeping children in school remains a major challenge in Cambodia. The school dropout rate is highest among lower secondary students (grades 7-9), and the primary reasons for leaving school are both economic and academic in nature. For example, students and their parents cite school-related expenses and the need to supplement the family’s income through work as obstacles to staying in school.Students also drop out because of poor academic performance, not being able to keep up with their lessons, and constantly being absent from school.
I believe every Cambodian child should have the opportunity to complete their education. That’s why I’m pleased that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working closely with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to address the school dropout dilemma.The USAID-funded School Dropout Prevention Pilot (SDPP) Program is a five-year applied research program aimed to reduce the number of dropouts from lower secondary schools in Cambodia. Working with local partner Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE), the SDPP Program helped reduce dropouts among lower secondary students from 215 schools in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, Pursat, and Svay Rieng provinces. Between 2012 and 2014, nearly 60,000 children benefited from the program, which helped reduce the dropout rate by 2.5 percentage points. And among at-risk students, the program’s Early Warning System reduced dropouts by 7 percentage points. This is wonderful news and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
One reason the program is so effective in reducing student dropouts is because it is a community-wide effort. The SDPP Program works directly with students, teachers, and community groups to help children stay in school and work towards a better future. The program’s success would not have been possible without the close collaboration with education offices at sub-national levels, including provincial offices of education, district offices of education, school principals, community representatives, and others.It is amazing to see what can be accomplished when everyone works together.
I hope the valuable lessons and strategies to reduce school dropout developed through the SDPP Program will continue to help Cambodian children stay in school. With a good education, children will have the foundation to achieve their full potential and help build a prosperous Cambodia.