As the number of children reaching school age continues to grow, Sihanoukville municipality is facing a serious shortage of teachers at all levels of the public education system, officials said last week.
Chey Bory Wath, head of Sihanoukville’s Secondary Education Department, said that schools were so starved for staff that teachers were working double-time in disciplines unfamiliar to them.
“Teachers are required to teach subjects that aren’t their specialties, so the teaching is not clear,” he said.
“We tell the teachers to do this just in order to keep the students occupied.”
A teacher shortage is only one of the municipal school system’s problems, he added.
Despite opening four new secondary schools this year, classes are still packed with 50 to 70 students, Chey Bory Wath said. The stated policy of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports restricts class size to betweem 40 and 45 students, he said.
Chey Bory Wath estimated that Sihanoukville’s secondary education system needs about 20 additional full-time teachers and another 40 classrooms.
At the primary level, Sihanoukville has long suffered from a chronic teacher shortage, said Sen Chomnith, head of Sihanoukville’s Primary Education Department.
“Last year, we lacked about 100 teachers for primary schools,” he said. “This year we will need even more than that.”
Both officials said that the more remote areas of the municipality, in Stung Haw and Prey Nop districts, are the most severely stretched.
“We have asked for more teachers from the Ministry of Education, but we are still waiting for a response,” Chey Bory Wath said.
Contacted by telephone last week, ministry Secretary of State Pok Than, who would not talk about Sihanoukville’s specific problems, said that provinces around the country constantly face teacher shortages as the student population grows. The answer, he explained, is to increase the number of students permitted in a single classroom.
“But this solution is still not so good,” he said.
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