Largest Teachers’ Association Laments Dearth of Textbooks

The head of the country’s largest teachers’ association sent an open letter to Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron on Wednesday contending that there is a serious shortage of textbooks and teacher manuals due to corruption and indifference on the part of ministry officials.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA), called for “immediate” action to address the problem.

“The leadership [of the Ministry] ignores the issue of education and they just speak about reforming, but the reality is not like what they say,” he said. “From year to year, nothing changes; it stays the same.”

San Chey, a fellow at the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia Pacific, said research conducted by his NGO in 2013 affirmed CITA’s complaint. He said a survey of 489 students in 33 schools showed that pupils were not receiving a textbook for every subject they were studying, as promised by the ministry.

Mr. Chey said that in Kompong Cham province, for example, nearly 60 percent of students received three or fewer textbooks for the 11-textbook curriculum.

“[However], I never hear the ministry admit the students do not have enough textbooks,” he said.

Lim Sotharith, director of the Education Ministry’s textbook department, pushed back against Mr. Chhun’s complaint, claiming there was a lack of communication between CITA leaders and members.

“What they say sometimes is not correct because they just hear from one or two teachers,” he said. “Rong Chhun can ask me directly—I have the documents at the office.”

Mr. Sotharith said that a one-to-one textbook ratio for students from grades one through nine was being fully implemented.

He also claimed that the ministry did not publish teaching manuals in six out of the 12 grades as a matter of policy.

“We want to push our teachers. Why do they need a teachers’ manual?” he said.

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