School and Education in Cambodia

The French school system prevailed until the 1960s in Cambodia. Under the 1974–79 terrorist regime, the educational system totally collapsed. A large part of the teaching staff was killed. It is claimed that 75% of teachers and 80% of students in higher education institutions were either killed or fled.

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After 1979, the laborious work of building a new educational system began. The country has been in dire need of assistance in this work, and the Norwegian Save the Children have been involved in teacher education projects. Initially, it focused on literacy programs and primary school education. There is a 6 year compulsory schooling for children between 6 and 12 years. Access to basic education has increased significantly, although there are major regional differences. In 1999, approx. 89% of children in primary school. The high school is divided into two (3 + 3 years). About. 22% of young people leave high school and 11% from high school. There are large differences between regions and between genders in access to higher education. In general, the quality of education is low and access to textbooks and other equipment is low.

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Khmer is the official language of instruction, but access to textbooks in the language is limited. It creates problems, especially in higher education. About 30% of the adult population is illiterate, among women approx. 40% (2003).

Cambodia Country Flag

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1945 Cambodia declares itself independent

In 1941, the French colony administration appointed a young prince of 18 years, Norodom Sihanouk, to reign over Cambodia. They hoped that they would easily be able to politically manipulate the young inexperienced king. But when the Japanese withdrew from the country on March 12, 1945, the young king declared it independent. Nevertheless, at the end of World War II, France again occupied Indochina, but while Vietnam embarked on an anti-colonial war, the Cambodian king maneuvered to gain greater autonomy for his country.

However, the struggle against the French colonial government overshadowed the historical contradictions between Khmer and Vietnamese. But the fight against France in Cambodia never became a real mass movement. The resistance movement in Indochina was led by the Vietnamese.

In 1947, a new constitution was adopted that retained Norodom Sihanouk as king, but had limited powers of power. In 1949 a new agreement was concluded, after which the French took care of defense and foreign policy alone, while the other political issues were left to a “local” parliament. In 1951, the Indochinese Communist Party was dissolved and replaced by three independent Communist parties. One in Vietnam, one in Laos and one in Cambodia. All the parties built wider front organizations in the fight against France. Due to the difficult military situation, France gave Cambodia independence as early as 1953 – half a year before the French defeat in Vietnam which led to the Geneva Agreement in May 1954. It required an immediate withdrawal of the French troops in Vietnam and Laos, but that happened only regrouping, and the liberation movements gained control of North Vietnam and two provinces of Laos. The Geneva Agreement also provided for the Vietnamese liberation forces to withdraw from Cambodia. It also happened while making large parts of the Cambodianliberation movement put down the weapons.

In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his father, so that he could devote himself to political life. At the election that year, his party won all seats in the National Assembly. In 1960, the prince took over the prime minister post.