Mr. Eam Kunnavuth is an early grade Mathematics mentor working in the Siem Reap Province. He is in his 30s and highly motivated in doing his best to help teachers grow into their role as educators.
Mentors are a special task force of education professionals, whom the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) identified as crucial in supporting the capacity development of Grade 1 and 2 teachers across Cambodia. Mentoring is a new and innovative concept within the Cambodian school system. The STEPCam programme—jointly implemented by MoEYS and UNESCO with the financial support of CapED and GPE3—introduced Senior Mentoring as part of the 3-year initiative, which targets the improvement of early grade learning. The introduction of mentoring allows teachers to get regular support from their peers. In this way, teachers’ capacity development doesn’t end with training, but will continue at school.
STEPCam introduces mechanisms to provide ongoing technical support to teachers, building their confidence. The Programme is strengthening the quality of education in primary education, investing in teachers’ training and monitoring; as a result teachers are more satisfied with their teaching, and their in-class performance improves generating positive learning outcomes for students.
By focusing on the professional development of Grade 1 and Grade 2 teachers of Khmer and Mathematics, this component of STEPCam engages not just mentors, but also teachers, teacher trainers, school directors, and MoEYS officials and staff in a comprehensive suite of activities.
By the end of 2019, a total of 3,400 mentors, teachers, and trainers (62% of whom are women) have been actively engaging in trainings and capacity development workshops delivered by the Primary Education Department of MoEYS in the five (5) provinces targeted by STEPCam: Kratie, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, Steng Treng, Oddar Meanchey. This suite of activities is the result of joint efforts by several key departments within MoEYS (Curriculum Development Department, Teacher Training Department, Provincial Office of Education, and Excellent Teachers Network), UNESCO and implementing partners (All Children Reading – Cambodia and Open Institute).
“This training helped me acquire new competencies in classroom management, allowing me to receive exposure to new teaching methodologies and materials. Plus, the training gave me the unique opportunity to learn with and from my peers: observing others is definitely important as it allows us all to exchange positive competences and grow together” - said Eam Kunnavuth.
The new student-centered approach in early-grade-learning—which fosters positive inquiry and active participation—is at the core of STEPCam’s programme, together with child-friendly and engaging new teaching materials.
The teachers’ guides in particular have quickly become everyone’s favorite. A large majority of the 2,770 teachers (75% of whom are women) who engaged in the roll-out of activities shared rave reviews: “Teachers are happy with the new teaching package, they feel it is useful and helpful to learn new teaching techniques. Plus, what they really appreciate is that with the new teaching guide they can write lesson plans more easily and quickly” reported Ms Meng Channy, Technical Advisor to STEPCam who worked directly with the PED.
More teacher-centered initiatives are in the pipeline for the 2019-2020 academic year. For now, Grade 1 Khmer has been officially rolled-out in all four provinces (Kratie, Preah Vihear, Steng Treng, Oddar Meanchey) with an opening ceremony held by PED in Preah Vihear in October 2019. The piloting of Grade 2 Khmer; a refresher of Grade 1 Khmer kick-off; the training of trainers and piloting of teacher training for Grade 2 Mathematics also took place in Siem Reap before the end of last year.
“Early grade learning and teaching are crucial to strengthen the quality of education. Our aim is to achieve this through the introduction of improved teaching methodologies that can provide early grade students with solid foundations in reading, writing and numeracy. For instance, the new approach to teaching Mathematics begins from concreate object to iconic/semi-abstract to abstract in a progressive and phased manner. The same approach is also applied to teaching Khmer, where we emphasize the recognition of characters and phonic sounds, to improve reading proficiency and comprehension.” – further added H.E. Chan Sophea.
As we begin the fifth year of implementation of the Education 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and as we approach the International Day of Education on January 24th, programmes like STEPCam offer a tangible reminder of the key role played by teachers towards ensuring quality education (SDG 4) is achieved leaving no one behind.
Ultimately in fact, the traditional Cambodian saying “Better teachers, outstanding students” is really what this MoEYS and UNESCO-led Programme is all about.