Education in Cambodia

The education in Cambodia is managed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), which responding to broader national development policies and priorities, formulation of the Education Strategic Plan (ESP) reflects the high degree of responsibility through capacity building and human resources development which is one of the main strategies of the Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government of Cambodia in the third mandate of the National Assembly. MoEYS continues to put emphasis on education quality improvement at all levels, Basic, Post Basic and Higher Education. The policies and strategies presented in the ESP 2006-10 are notable in order to accelerate the speed of education reform towards achieving all defined targets in the National Development Strategic Plan 2006-10, Cambodia Millennium Development Goals, and the Education for All National Plan 2003-2015.

Cambodia's education system holds a very important place in the country's plans for integrating itself into the regional and international economies and for reducing the poverty of its people. The Cambodian government, and the many international and nongovernmental organizations that provide it with development assistance, regard education as the key to developing the human resources and skills that will allow Cambodia to take its place in these economies. The country's education system, once the envy of many countries in Southeast Asia, was almost totally destroyed during the 1970s, and it has had to contend with the legacy of this destruction in the years since.


Education in Cambodia was traditionally offered by the wats (Buddhist temples), thus providing education exclusively for the male population.
The 1917 Law on Education passed by the French colonial government introduced a basic primary and secondary education system modelled loosely on that of France. However, that new system was fundamentally elitist, reaching only a very small per cent of the indigenous population and functioning mainly as a means of training civil servants for colonial service throughout French Indochina.

From the early twentieth century until 1975, the system of mass education operated on the French model. The educational system was divided into primary, secondary, higher, and specialized levels. Public education was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, which exercised full control over the entire system; it established syllabi, hired and paid teachers, provided supplies, and inspected schools. An inspector of primary education, who had considerable authority, was assigned to each province. Cultural committees under the Ministry of Education were responsible for "enriching the Cambodian language."

In the early 1980s, Cambodia was emerging from a period of political conflict and instability. Much of the physical and human infrastructure of education had been destroyed and needed to be restored quickly. The 1990s saw a period of emergency relief and reconstruction, with heavy dependence on external assistance from donor agencies and nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Recognizing the need for improved coordination of external assistance, the Government approved an Education Investment Plan 1995?2000. Despite significant external aid over the decade (though declining in the late 1990s), the Government’s own Education for All (EFA) 2000 Assessment acknowledged disappointing sector performance and the need for more sustainable and policy-led reform.

Education System Structure

The formal educational structure consists of six years of primary school (grades 1-6), three years of lower secondary school (grades 7-9), and three years of upper secondary school (grades 10-12). Before 1996 the structure was 5:3:3, and before 1985 it was 4:3:3. In prerevolutionary Cambodia, the educational structure was 6:4:3. Therefore, while educational provision has increased in recent years, it has not yet reached the level of the period prior to the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Higher education is available at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the Royal Agricultural University, the Royal University of Fine Arts, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Law and Economics, the Faculty of Business (National Institute of Management), the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (formerly the Higher Technical Institute of Khmer-Soviet Friendship), and the Maharishi Vedic University (an Australian-funded institution in rural Prey Veng Province). Private education exists at all levels of theeducation system. In primary and secondary education, private schools have been opened by ethnic minority communities as well as for the children of the relatively small wealthy expatriate community residing in Cambodia. Private higher education is available at Norton University and at a number of other institutions, such as Regent College. Also, there is a flourishing industry, especially in Phnom Penh, in unregulatedprivate schools that offer students instruction in foreign languages and computer skills.