Cambodian youth, especially the poor, are highly vulnerable to disruptive forces which often interrupt the completion of their education. Indeed, the PoEYS reports that the Net Enrolment Rate for lower secondary school is only 35%, meaning that two-thirds of youth aged 12 to 14 never make it this far in their education (EMIS, 2011). For those youth who make it from Grade 7 to 9, most have to take private tutoring classes in order to keep up with their curriculum and receive passing grades from their teachers. The Ministry of Education reports that nationally the Completion Rate for lower secondary school (for enrolled students) is only 46.8% and only about 42.2% for Battambang Province (41.6% for girls). At the upper secondary school level, the rate drops to 23.0% (22.0% for girls) (EMIS, 2011). About 15-20% of the students enrolled in high school come from very poor families and struggle to attain literacy. Families face huge challenges in accessing education for their children with the increased pressure of paying for private tutoring classes, which cost about $1 to $1.50 per day (based on interviews with youth engaged in a high school study). This is a huge investment for families struggling to meet their basic needs. Students report that in cases where they cannot afford extra tuition they experience pressure from teachers and less than preferable treatment. In order to raise the costs of tutoring, students are often forced to forgo lunch (about 1,500 to 2,000 Riels or approximately $0.50). Inevitably many youth drop out of school due to insufficient family income and the additional pressures of working to bring labour and wages into the family.
In addition to formal schooling, poor youth have minimal access to skills training courses due to both finances and lack of local training institutions. Although 85% of Cambodians are engaged in agriculture as their primary occupation, training in this area is not preferenced and opportunities are few and unpopular.
Youth have few places to debate, to share ideas, to research areas of interest, to concentrate on their studies, to build social skills, to participate in-group or individual study, or to spend time in a positive learning environment. Compounding the challenges faced by many young people in completing their education, little support is given in the area of counseling which helps young people to address difficult life decisions. There are currently no formal guidance counseling services in any of Cambodia’s public schools. With access to such services, youth have a much greater potential to address their fears, hopes and dreams in a supportive environment.
One of the few opportunities for advancement available to youth, is entry into one of the 18 Provincial Teacher Training Centers in Cambodia. One such college is located in Battambang. Students accepted into these institutions study for two years to be teachers, after which they are guaranteed employment as teachers in Cambodia’s public schools. Despite the low monthly salary of $30 to $50 per month, many students see this as a desirable option beyond school. This however can be difficult for many students from poor backgrounds, as they must raise funds to pay for room and board over a two-year period. With thousands of applicants for only 100-200 places, entrance into PTTCs can be difficult without extra tuition and exam preparation.
How to address?
In order to address the problems highlighted above, PKO has designed a project called, Young People for Development Program (YPfD) with the central aim of preparing young people (15-30 years old) to be healthy, educated, productive, and civically engaged citizens. The project has three key strategic objectives to realize this aim:
In order to accomplish this objective, PKO will establish a Resource Center. This will be a place of learning, sharing, consulting, study and development for youth. This resource center will play an important role in the program as a central point where youth can benefit from different functions.
PKO will play an important role in filling the gap in the MoEYS’ aim to enhance access to education through scholarship support. The scholarships of PKO will be classified into three categories as follows:
Who are the beneficiaries?
Direct Beneficiaries will include the following:
Working with young people to alleviate the poverty!!!