Andre Akito

The Cambodia Ireland Changemaker Network (CICN) is a mutually beneficial partnership between Cambodian and Irish organizations with the objective to enhance quality education in both countries.  



May 3, 2023

The Cambodia Ireland Changemaker Network

Over the last years, there have been many developments in the educational system in Cambodia. Considerable progress has been made in terms of access to education, especially in rural areas. Today, more than 97% of children are enrolled in primary school and the number of students reaching higher education has also increased.

However, despite these noteworthy improvements, Cambodian students are still lagging behind to reach adequate levels of learning throughout their educational journey. One of the biggest challenges today is related to high dropout rates and low average years of schooling. Cambodian students tend to stay only 4.7 years in school which means that, by the time the children turn 17 years old, more than half of the students will have dropped out of school. As a consequence, many students are not able to reach minimum standards of learning. Findings from the 2018 MoEYS OECD Report revealed that less than 3% of 15-year-old children reach base line levels of performance in math or literacy.

Therefore, even though huge progress has been made over the last years, Cambodia still finds itself in the midst of a severe learning crisis. 

Quality Education

Cambodian children continue to fall behind in school for a number of reasons, but one seem to be more relevant: quality of education. 

During the Khmer Rouge period, 90% of teachers were killed and the educational system was completely destroyed. By 1979, when Vietnam occupied Cambodia and put an end to Pol Pot’s regime, only 15 secondary schools remained in Cambodia. As a consequence, nowadays, the country faces a shortage of teachers. In addition, around 79% of teachers who are currently working have no graduate qualifications. This is a huge challenge because teachers can be considered one of the main variables when it comes to quality of learning. Many schools in the countryside still don’t have adequate infrastructure and school supplies, but qualified and competent teachers have the ability to keep education ongoing even under these challenging circumstances. 

It is important to mention that quality education can only thrive if it’s also surrounded by a positive learning environment, which can be understood as the provision of adequate support by family members and local communities. Families and communities need to value education themselves and support their children at school and throughout their learning journey. In the past, many children used to help their families financially by working in agriculture and many families couldn’t afford to send their children to school, particularly in rural and deprived areas. Many families in these areas still rely on their children’s work to support the family income and some can’t afford to exchange the children’s help for a long term investment in education. 

These two challenges eventually lead to many students dropping out of school during their lives.  Education the most powerful instrument to transform a country and its people. And improving the quality of education and providing a supportive learning environment is imperative to reduce dropout rates, improve learning outcomes, develop a country’s educational system and ultimately, transform the country itself.  

The government has already taken actions to improve quality education in Cambodia. And some organizations are extremely aligned with this goal, one of them being the Cambodia Ireland Changemaker Network.

The Cambodia Ireland Changemaker Network

The Cambodia Ireland Changemaker Network (CICN) is a mutually beneficial partnership between Cambodian and Irish organizations. It aims to create positive, large-scale and sustainable change in Cambodia and on the island of Ireland mainly through the development of quality education. 

In order to create long-term sustainable change, CICN understands that it needs to act on different levels, such as individuals, families, communities and systems. Therefore, it develop projects and actions that impact all these levels accordingly. Furthermore, CICN recognizes the importance of building local capacity. That’s because local people are the ones that really know the challenges that a country faces and, ultimately, are the ones more prepared to solve them. In the long term, it is the only way of creating sustainable change.

Cambodia Ireland Changemaker Network currently partners with two Cambodian-based organizations: PEPY Empowering Youth and SeeBeyondBorders. Both are supported by Irish Aid and the INTO and both take part in the annual exchange programme.

In 2023, the Cambodia Ireland Changemaker Network celebrates its 10-year anniversary. The partnership, which started small, with only one school in Ireland and one organization in Cambodia, has grown into a big network that now encompasses many organizations and individuals in Cambodia and in Ireland. All of them coming together to create real and sustainable change in education in both countries. 

This video discusses the main changes that have happened in the Cambodian educational system over the last 10 years, the development of the main partnerships, the impacts of the network on the individuals, communities and systems and expectations and challenges for the years coming ahead. 

for more inspiring stories of everyday life people and from around the world, check out the rest of my blog and follow me on social media

For ideas of projects or collaborations, send me an email or message me on social media