9 May 2010

Most Cambodians Lack Functional Literacy Skills

'A literacy survey (UNESCO/UNDP, 2000) estimated that only 36% of the population is literate in terms of being able to use their literacy skills for every day life and income generation while another 36% of the population (approximately 2.6 million adults) are illiterate and 27% are semi-illiterate (1.9 million adults). Combining these two figures indicates that 63% of the population’s literacy skills are below the functional level. 63% of 14 000 000, the approximate number of people living in Cambodia, is approximately 8.8 million. Hence, nearly 9 million people living in Cambodia are in need of literacy instruction.'

~Jackie Rosenbloom, February 2004 in 'Adult Literacy in Cambodia: A Research Report.'

That just 36% of the Cambodians are literate seems the general consensus of a number of research and reporting efforts on the subject. These atrocious figures are despite the fact that the Cambodian Constitution is supposed to guarantee every child nine-years of free education. Clearly though many kids aren't making it to school, of if they do get there, grossly under-paid and under-trained teachers are not capable of delivering the standard of education required. Or anything like it.

Adult literacy programmes have some success. But again with pay rates of just $250 per year for adult literacy teachers, quality instructors are hard to come by. Sometimes they are considered qualified solely on the basis that they finished grade nine. It doesn't help that such teachers are only paid once per year, if at all- some haven't been paid for their last two years of work.

Tragic stuff: Especially when there is clear evidence that a mother with a basic education is both far more likely to keep her kids healthy and ensure that they too go to school.

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