COVID-19 Op-ed

Inclusive Education amid Covid-19 in Cambodia

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Neak PisethFounder
of “The Way of
Life Cambodia
.” He received a scholarship to pursue his
master’s degree in Non-Formal Education at Chulalongkorn University in
Thailand. He has been working as an English Lecturer at the Royal University
of Phnom Penh. He is also the author of the book “The Genuine Chapters of
Life” and a reviewer at Cambodian Education
Forum
.

According to UNESCO, inclusive education refers to the systems
that remove any barriers limiting their learning participation in regardless
of their genders, ages, physical abilities, religions, cultures, and others
(UNESCO, 2020). The initial turning point in Cambodia towards inclusive
education was the ratification of the Convention on the Right of the Child
(CRC) on 20 November 1989, which recognized the right of the child to enjoy
the equal opportunity to access education (UN, 2006). Covid-19 not only
challenged Cambodia’s health system but also its education sector. The
government had no choice but stopped schooling in mid-March for health safety
(Neak, 2020).Despite the impact of COVID-19,  inclusive education
through Social Media like Facebook, YouTube, Telegram, radio and television
is being implemented to disseminate preliminary information for students’
health protection (Internation, 2020).Traditional face-to-face education has
been replaced by online learning. Hence, problems arise in terms of granting
inclusive education in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (Rinith, 2020).
For instance, we can see that developed countries are still lagging behind in
terms of technological advancement including internet connectivity. This is a
primary issue in delivering equitable quality education for all, especially
to marginalized groups and disabled people (Nishio, 2019). The marginalized
groups and differently-abled people are also vulnerable as learning through
online is uncommon and likely impossible for them (UNICEF, 2020)Due to
limited knowledge and low standard of living in Cambodia, online access is
difficult. The deficient technological skills of the teachers also
contributed to this problem. As a result, the COVID-19 outbreak exacerbates
these problems that have been present for a long time. The pandemic only
highlighted these issues and further preventing the government and other
relevant stakeholders from ensuring inclusive education to everyone in
Cambodia.Nevertheless, the government has worked closely with developing
partners to establish some educational programs via radios to assist
marginalized and ethnic groups to have access to education (Children, 2020).
They also developed educational programs with body language to help disabled
students to be able to access to education. These actions have articulated
that never has the Cambodian government, and other relevant stakeholders put
everyone left behind.During the conference on the occasion of World Teachers’
Day on 05 October, Minister of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports
(MOEYS), HE. Dr Hang Chuon Naron lauded the efforts of the teachers. He
stated: “even amidst COVID-19 outbreak, teachers have managed to invest
time and effort into education, via online teaching, and they are essential
when implementing education reform” (Times, 2020).MOEYS launched “Smart
Teachers for Digital Education” to promote teachers’ role in providing equal
education in all levels. Although advanced technology for assisting online
learning poses some obstacles in implementing an equitable quality education,
the window of opportunity is open for everyone to have access to education.
Some teachers and youth have volunteered to train vulnerable groups like
students with disabilities, gifted children and ethnic groups. These actions
underpin the efforts of the Cambodian government and other actors in ensuring
quality and inclusive education to everyone amid the pandemic.Inclusive
education in Cambodia during the Covid-19 outbreak has many challenges for
teachers and learners. Nevertheless, if we look at the positive side, there
is a flash of silver lining lying. It could be an initial turning point for
learners, who otherwise would have a difficult time accessing physical school
It is key that Cambodians are able to adapt to the new environment by using
all available resources to keep their endeavors alive.References:Children, S. t. (2020).
SAVE THE CHILDREN: PREPARING FOR AND RESPONDING TO COVID-19 IN CAMBODIA. SAVE
THE CHILDREN
. Retrieved from https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/node/17669/pdf/Save%20the%20Children%20in%20Cambodia%20COVID-19%20Response%20Strategy%20Brief.pdfInternation,
R. (2020). Responding to COVID-19 education challenges in low-resource
settings. Retrieved from https://www.rti.org/impact/cambodian-students-learn-at-home-during-covid-19Neak,
P. (2020). Self-directed learning: The way forward for education after the
COVID-19 crisis. Cambodian Educational Forum.
Retrieved from http://ambodianeducationforum.wordpress.com/2020/08/03/self-directed-learning-the-way-forward-for-education-after-the-covid-19-crisis/?fbclid=IwAR1mwGp7sa35SEWyvSU7DapMCmZOZ5kOBgp22G-ZA-30G0jazCEKKu1lvUYNishio,
A. (2019). History and Current Situation of Education for Children with
Disabilities in Cambodia: A Gray Literature Review. Scientific
Research Publishing
. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4236/ce.2019.108125Rinith,
T. (2020). Rethinking education: An inclusive response to
COVID-19. Khmer Times. Retrieved from https://www.khmertimeskh.com/726828/rethinking-education-an-inclusive-response-to-covid-19/Times,
K. (2020). The Ministry of Education congratulated teachers across Cambodia
to celebrate World Teacher Day. Khmer
Times
.(2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities and Optional Protocol
. New York: United
Nations.UNESCO. (2020) What is inclusive
education?/Interviewer: C. Acedo
. Educational Platform,UNESCO,
International Bureau of Education.UNICEF. (2020). Ensuring an
inclusive return to school for children with disabilities
.
Vietnam: UNICEF Vietnam.

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