The Cambodian education system has dealt with several setbacks throughout the country's establishment of its 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. Nonetheless, Cambodia has implemented measures to improve the standard of education over the last couple of years.
Most expat parents send their children to private or international schools in Cambodia. While pricey, this option minimises the disruption and discomfort of going to school in a new country.
Public schools in Cambodia
The Ministry of Education controls education on a state level, and the Department of Education manages school affairs on a provincial level. Cambodian general education is based on a national school curriculum, consisting of two main parts: basic 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, school attendance in rural areas is below average, as children often have to work 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 home languages and religions.
Unlike public schools, which only teach in Khmer, private and international schools cater to different languages. This can make the transition easier for children. Many international schools, with most located in the capital, 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.
Some schools have an entry assessment before accepting a child, and most also require a health check, including vaccination and health records.
Many highly rated private and international schools have waiting lists, so it is best to apply in advance.
Special-needs education in Cambodia
With mainstream public education already under-resourced, there is little support for students with special educational needs. Historically, such students have been overlooked at best and entirely excluded at worst.
That said, 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 between schools and may come at an additional cost.
Tutors in Cambodia
Though tutors aren't widely used by locals, expat families may find them useful in the move to Cambodia. Fortunately, there are many tutoring companies geared towards expats. Tutors can help ease the adjustment to a new curriculum or assist students with learning a new language or maintaining their mother tongue. Expats may also employ tutoring services 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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