Private Tuition Squeezes Parents’ Monthly Budget 

The photo shows students in a classroom at Hun Sen Pochentong secondary school (Photo supplied)

PHNOM PENH – The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has ordered all public schools to conduct standardized exams as part of their evaluation process in a move to ensure equality among students, stressing that the growing tendency for teachers to provide private tuition after school is creating disparities between young people.

In addition, public school teachers must not recycle exercises they have used during these private teaching sessions as exams for their full-time classes, the ministry said in a statement on May 7. 

Parents have complained about the increased cost of education induced by these private after-school classes, and the inequality they create for families who can't afford to pay for them, especially if the public school exams are almost identical to the exercises seen in private classes. 

“The problem comes from the number of teachers who conduct monthly exams with similar content to exercises they have already seen in part-time extra classes,” they said. “It affects the students’ sense of learning, leading to a huge inequality gap for poor or disadvantaged students who cannot afford the part-time courses.”

This comes as private tuition has become increasingly popular to boost the students’ education level and ensure teachers an additional income on top of their public school salary. While Math, Physics, Biology, Khmer and Chemistry are historically the most popular subjects taught in these extra classes, other disciplines like History are gaining attention.

But these trainings come at a cost for families. Prices range from 800 riel (about $0.2) to 1,500 riel (around $0.35), or more, per hour and student, depending on the grade and whether the school is located in a province or a city. This means that a family with two children can spend a few dozen dollars per month on top of the public school fees to boost their children’s education.

Pa Chanroeun, the president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, urged the ministry to tackle this problem, which he described as a “chronic disease of the education system”, given it has been occurring for decades.

A part-time class is supposed to be a supplementary class for students shortly prior to their examinations, he told Cambodianess on May 8. However, he believes that private tutoring has become an additional source of profit for teachers, to the detriment of the quality of teaching provided in public schools.

“I have talked to some parents about their children’s part-time private training. They said they are a daily burden because they want their children to get good results at school. But students say some teachers don’t teach them attentively during the full-time classes,” he said. 

“This pushes parents to register their children for private lessons given by the same teacher, therefore increasing their salary,” he added. 

In 2024, the minimum wage for public school teachers starts at 1.45 million riel (around $360) per month and goes up to 2.1 million riel (about $525), compared to 500,000 riel ($125) ten years ago.

“This should be enough for a living,” Chanroeun said, adding the push for extra classes is “not in line with teachers’ morality.” 

“Most importantly, those teachers are cultivating the culture of corruption,” he said. 

Likewise, Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Center for Development and Peace, believes it's time for the Ministry to tackle this long-standing problem, to ensure fairness and transparency among students. 

“It’s normal for students to get competitive with each other in school. However, they should not be biased in their examination because others can afford part-time classes in which teachers give exercises that will later appear in the exams,” Kim Eng said, adding that such disparity among students can create mental illnesses in the disadvantaged ones. 

Kim Eng suggested that the Ministry set up a committee for each school to conduct the exams under the supervision of the principal, to avoid such situations. 

With the problem still ongoing, the Ministry has once again called on all teachers and public educational establishments to assume the responsibilities entrusted to them by the school management, to ensure that they teach in a professional, equitable and inclusive manner.

The Ministry also ordered schools to prepare and implement an extracurricular program to provide more self-study time, at least two extra hours a day, and encouraged parents and guardians to pay close attention to their children, monitor them and encourage them to engage in self-study and study at home.

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