Teach the Teacher (Cambodia)

Project Representative
Sarah Reynolds
Creation Date: 2009
Headquarters: Battambang, Cambodia
Geographical Reach: Cambodia
Nature and number of beneficiaries: Over 300 teachers and over 10,000 primary school students

Teach the Teacher (Cambodia)

About the Project

At SeeBeyondBorders, we believe change begins with education. We work in primary schools in two impoverished rural areas of Cambodia. Our programmes enable children from these disadvantaged communities to access quality teaching and learning at school, increasing their chances of escaping the cycle of poverty. 

Working in partnership with local communities, SeeBeyondBorders sustainably improves education standards by training teachers, getting children to school (by, for example, helping to reduce health problems) and improving school facilities. 

What is Teach the Teacher?
"A high-quality teaching workforce - the bedrock of all high-performing education systems - is the single most important factor in improving student learning," World Bank, 2015.

Teach the Teacher develops confident and competent communities of teachers committed to quality teaching and ongoing professional development.  We target Grade 1-3 teachers in rural primary schools where there is the greatest need and where the most inexperienced teachers are generally placed. It is delivered by local Cambodian staff and by teachers themselves who collaborate to ensure the sustainability of our work.

The Teach the Teacher Focus Area has been divided into four key programmes: 

1.  Our Teach the Teacher Core Programme delivers bi-annual workshops to teachers over three years. These workshops strengthen teaching practices, using maths as a subject focus.
2.  Our Mentoring Programme embeds the skills learnt at workshops by allocating specially trained mentor teachers to work with mentee teachers on a monthly basis over three years. Through two-way feedback the mentors help teachers apply the practices they have learnt and develop their confidence without fear of ‘doing something wrong’.
3. Our Transition Programme identifies a small group of mentors to become Senior Mentors, who facilitate workshops, and support their fellow mentors, to ensure the sustainability of our model.
4. Our Teacher Awards Programme motivates teachers to continue their development, by recognizing their achievements through a professional incentive quality awards system. Awards are presented by provincial government representatives, helping to promote the importance of quality teaching at government level.

SeeBeyondBorders has operated in Cambodia since 2009 and has had a significant impact on education standards in the areas it works. Student results have consistently improved year-on-year, student absence has gradually decreased, teachers’ skills and confidence have improved (measured against a skills scale), and government officials have recognised the importance of in-service teaching training.

Context and Issue

In recent years, progress has been made to reduce poverty in Cambodia. However the country still faces huge development challenges, especially in the field of education. During the Khmer Rouge regime, the education system was systematically destroyed and 75 percent of teachers were lost. 

Prior to the introduction of SeeBeyondBorders' teacher training programmes in schools it supports, there was no evidence of effective, ongoing teacher professional development, or use of teacher performance or student assessment data. The Cambodian government provides limited in-school training or support to teachers.

Teaching resources in rural schools are almost non-existent, with schools lacking the finance or knowledge to be able to produce their own resources for large classes. This results in lack of teacher confidence and disinterested students.

In the poor, rural provinces of Siem Reap and Battambang, where SeeBeyondBorders works:
- Up to 50 percent of children do not complete primary school. 
- Only 10 percent of children in Siem Reap province complete high school.
- Children as young as 12 are leaving school to start working and supporting their families.
- Literacy rates are amongst the lowest in the country, at 64 percent.

Hanushek and Rivkin (2010) state that 'over a single school year, students with a poor teacher master 50 percent or less of the curriculum for that grade; students with a good teacher achieve an average gain of one year; and students with great teachers advance 1.5 grade levels or more." The work of SeeBeyondBorders aims to upgrade teacher skills so that Cambodian students benefit from good teaching, progress in school and break the cycle of poverty.

Solution and Impact

SeeBeyondBorders’ innovative solution to these issues is its SCALE initiative – Scaffolding Capability And Learning Experiences – for teachers. Building on Vygotsky’s “Zone of Proximal Development” social theory, we build teachers’ conceptual understanding and skills.  

We also support them to use those skills and empower them to collaborate with their peers to identify the teaching needs and problems in their environment, furthering their own development, developing the education system itself and having a vital social impact.  

Our scaffold is progressively withdrawn as capabilities strengthen. We encourage those who have been on the journey with us to be part of other people’s journey and truly scale opportunities for their colleagues.

SeeBeyondBorders has trained over 400 teachers, and supported over 100 mentors since beginning their work in Cambodia in 2009.

These improved teaching skills have positively impacted over 25,000 primary school children in the country.

The impact of SeeBeyondBorders' work has been recognised by UNESCO who presented the NGO with the 2014-2015 UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers in Paris in October 2016.

Future Developments

In the future, SeeBeyondBorders aims to expand into more districts of Cambodia and provide in-service teacher training to many more primary school teachers with the support of local education officials.  

The recognition afforded to the NGO through the UNESCO award has led to some discussions with members of the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and as a result, SeeBeyondBorders has been invited to contribute to ongoing plans for education reform in the country.

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