Literacy is a key component of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded Food for Education (FFE) project in Cambodia. FFE improves the quality of Khmer literacy instruction in grades 1 and 2 by training teachers and school directors; coaching and mentoring teachers; and providing new Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS) teaching and learning materials. Under a subcontract to the World Food Programme, World Education and local nongovernmental organization Bandos Komar are implementing this effort across Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, and Siem Reap provinces.
In collaboration with USAID’s All Children Learning project, World Education and Bandos Komar are helping the MoEYS roll out its new early-grade learning package, Komar Rien Komar Cheh, in three districts of Kampong Chhnang province. In Kampong Thom and Siem Reap, activities center on providing follow-up training, coaching, mentoring, and continuous professional development to the grade 1 and 2 teachers who have been trained on the literacy package through USAID, Global Partnership for Education, and USDA support. World Education also has national-level technical experts who are assisting MoEYS with training delivery, planning, and materials development.
In Kampong Chhnang, 11 trained literacy coaches are providing ongoing intensive support to 156 grade 1 teachers. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, literacy coaches visited schools, observed teachers in the classroom, and provided follow-up support and ongoing training inputs.
Om Veasna is a retired teacher who has almost 40 years of experience and works as a full-time literacy coach. When COVID-19 required school closures, she and the other literary coaches became unable to provide in-person support to teachers. As many people have since the start of the pandemic, literary coaches, teachers, and students in Cambodia adapted. MoEYS and the joint FFE and All Children Reading team quickly developed a plan to support parents and caregivers and get learning content into homes. “I am very proud that I am able to support my teachers and help parents teach their children at home. I am very happy that so many parents are engaging with the learning content and materials. Teachers, parents, and children all like the learning materials that have been distributed,” says Ms. Om Veasna.
To help teachers and caregivers support children’s progression through the Khmer literacy curriculum while learning from home, WEI’s technical experts are creating learning materials that include daily activities, videos, booklets, and teacher training resources. Each day, MoEYS posts these resources to its Komar Rien Komar Cheh (កុមាររៀនកុមារចេះ) Facebook page. Then, using Facebook Messenger, literacy coaches and teachers send the content to parents. For parents who do not have access to Facebook, coaches and teachers make phone calls to provide support. Overall, approximately 1,558 grade 1 parents in Kampong Chhnang receive learning content and assistance from teachers and literacy coaches through Facebook Messenger, and over 3,000 receive support through phone calls. In Kampong Thom, approximately 4,853 grade 1 parents and 4,315 grade 2 parents receive support and materials through Facebook Messenger, while literacy coaches have called more than 8,600 grade 1 and 8,200 grade 2 parents who do not have access to Facebook.
In addition to the digital materials and supportive phone calls, tremendous efforts have been made to provide students and caregivers with hard-copy learning resources. Supported by RTI International through USAID’s All Children Learning project, as well as FFE, students in Kampong Chhnang have been provided with home learning booklets, stories, and student supplementary books. The project’s literacy coaches, including Ms. Om Veasna, have been instrumental in ensuring these materials reach children.
To date, approximately 91,233 hard-copy home learning materials have been distributed to FFE target schools in Kampong Thom and Kampong Chhnang.
An early-grade reading assessment conducted through the All Children Reading project found that due to these interventions, student reading outcomes actually improved while schools were closed.