Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Senior Minister of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, I would like to thank the Council for Development of Cambodia for inviting me to this important meeting. I would also like to thank the Development Partners and NGOs for their continued support to the Education Sector and for their important comments on the progress within the sector, presented here today.
In presenting a short summary on our achievements and our challenges I would first like to share some of our successes. The most critical success has been in respect to educational outputs, particularly at primary and lower secondary level. In the year 2000, at the start of our reforms a little over 175,000 new students entered grade 6. In 2007, 312,909 new students entered grade 6, an increase of over 127,000. This figure is 87.4% of the age 11 population, nearly 7 out of every 8 children reaching grade 6, and for the first time ever in Cambodia gender parity has been achieved at this level.
Over this same period of 2000 to 2007 the number of new students successfully reaching grade 9 has more than doubled from 55,849 to 127,201, and the percentage of these students that are female has increased by one third from 33% to 43%. Clearly the reforms are enabling the Ministry to assist significantly more and more children in accessing and progressively completing higher and higher levels of education. May I also say that in respect to children in remote areas, between 2000 and 2007 the number of new students reaching grade 6 increased from 1,115 to 5,981, with the percentage of females rising from 41% to 46%. I believe the credit for such significant improvements goes not just to the Ministry but to the parents and children in these areas who show such a commitment and desire to access education despite difficult circumstances.
More broadly, I am pleased to announce that the new Education Law has been promulgated, and we are presently reviewing our current procedures and practices against the law to ensure full compliance.
However, despite all that has been achieved there is still much to do, and indeed some of the hardest challenges are yet to be faced. Our repetition rates and drop-out rates remain stubbornly high. Due to a lack of classrooms or of teachers almost a quarter of our schools still cannot offer the full 6 years of primary education; and for reasons of poverty or geography many parents still enroll their children into school over-age.
In looking forward, the Ministry is presently preparing to review and revise its 5 year sector policy document, the ESP. Alongside, and in support of this is the on-going development of the Fast Track Initiative Catalytic Fund program. This is a multi-donor fund of $57.4 Million over 3 years awarded to Cambodia on the strength of our present policies and strategies and our recent performance. The key areas of the program's focus include: reducing or eliminating the number of incomplete schools; strengthening school management and teacher professionalism; expanding the provision of Early Childhood education; increasing access to learning materials and implementing programs to reach the most marginalized students, including children with disabilities and the most poor.
This is an ambitious program which will hopefully contribute significantly to the achievement of Universal Primary Education by 2010 and Education For All by 2015. However, for the MoEYS the challenge lies not just in implementing this ambitious program. It also lies in managing and coping with the cost of its potential success.
In the education sector, success means more and more children enroll in school, or do not drop out. Each of these children requires: a classroom; a teacher; textbooks and other resources. Each extra classroom must be maintained and each extra teacher must be trained, provided with materials and given a salary. These recurrent costs are in fact much higher than the costs of bringing more children into schools and it is critically important that development partners and the Royal Government support the Ministry in ensuring that these funds will become available.
Thank you very much for your attention