Despite Cambodia's long history of education development (Clayton 1995; Dy and Ninomiya 2003), the discussion of the country's contemporary education sector usually begins with the destructive Khmer Rouge regime (Chhinh 2004; Keng and Clayton 2007). This analytical chapter of politics and economics of education reform begins with a discussion of the Khmer Rouge regime during which almost two million people died of starvation, hard work, and execution. Public infrastructure was completely destroyed and basic social services were terminated. The only activities that prevailed across the country were the collective farming intended to turn Cambodia into an agricultural utopia. Following the fall of the Khmer Rouge in January 1979, the Vietnamese-supported government established social systems from scratch (Kiernan 1982; Mysliweic 1988; Ayres 2000). Education and other social sectors were reborn with financial and technical support from the socialist blocks. The education reforms carried out so far have been based not only on the modernization of the system to catch up with an era of globalization but also the shift of political ideology from state economy to free economic market.

The 4 + 3 + 3 education system established in 1979 soon after the fall of the Khmer Rouge was expanded to a system of 5 + 3 + 3 and 6 + 3 + 3 in 1996. Cambodia's current education system is divided into four levels: preschool education, primary education, secondary education (lower and upper), and higher education. Six years of primary education and 3 years of lower secondary education make up basic education totaling 9 years. Although there are no official documents defining compulsory education in Cambodia, the Constitution stipulates that the State has the duty to provide primary and secondary education to all citizens for at least 9 years. This stipulation has been referred to in a number of policy documents with some modifications, most remarkably the inclusion of the word “free” (Kingdom of Cambodia 1993; Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport 2003a, 2006).


Educational Reform Equitable Access Development Partner Asian Development Bank Khmer Rouge 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sitha Chhinh
  • Sideth S. Dy

There are no affiliations available

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