Memos from Asia

Remote Learning in Cambodia under COVID-19 Pandemic

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Cambodia recorded its first Covid-19 case in January 2020. A second case was later recorded in March in the resort town of Siem Reap, renowned for its iconic Angkor Wat temples, with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport out of caution closing all schools indefinitely with immediate effect.

As one would have thought, education in Cambodia would come to a halt, but that was not to be.

The Ministry of Education quickly devised ways to enhance learning outside traditional classroom settings.

Mirror on the wall for children in Cambodian classroom near Phnom Penh

Implementation of e-learning pilot in Cambodia

In partnership with private companies, the ministry launched new e-learning incentives. Lessons of all grades were pre-recorded and offered via the ministry’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, e-learning website, and other online portals.

In June, as means to improve virtual learning, the ministry established a center for distance and digital learning to provide support and digital education to ensure that students and teachers alike fully utilize and maximize the benefits of technology.

As schools remain closed, teaching responsibility has switched from teachers to families.

Though online lessons offered by the Ministry of Education are necessary to students focused on education during the pandemic, it can be noted that they are not enough to suffice: nurturing children’s curiosity, critical thinking, and creativity, all of which form part of a complete academic lesson plan.

While these newly implemented routines can pose stress to both parents and children, sheltering children in a home-based setting can also serve as an excellent time to help them develop essential learning habits.

A school classroom in a remote village near Tatai, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia

No doubt, helping children study online at home can be difficult for many parents, even those from better-resourced environments.

But what makes it even more challenging in Cambodia is that few families own computers, and many don’t have much literacy in IT skills.

However, one of the positives is that Facebook is widely used across the country on smartphones meaning that online learning does have the potential to reach many children and parents.

The Ministry of Education posts daily storybooks and images on Facebook with videos meant to encourage writing, speaking, reading, and vocabulary. Audio and video stories are typically useful for parents who are not proficient readers.

The Ministry of Education suggests that online studying will continue until the pandemic situation improves within the country and the surrounding countries. It may well continue into the post-pandemic era. The ministry also noted that there has to be a balance between online learning and face-to-face studying because the former doesn’t include physical exercise, something essential for effective learning.

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