Cambodia’s education system faces many challenges and among them is special education for students with learning disabilities. The needs are enormous but the availability and affordability of these educational services leave a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, the Royal Government is now committing resources to special education so this area of services and education should see marked improvement over the coming years.
Children with special needs are many and varied. Some with speech or hearing impediments are quite straightforward to address while those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may be more difficult to accommodate. Nevertheless, a more inclusive environment is needed as the country continues to prosper and develop.
If a child has a moderate or severe disability parents will often keep the child at home and out of school. Thus, children with disabilities in Cambodia are often unseen, unheard, and uncounted. In many cases, particularly with the severe, they have no access to social support services or special education programs. In recent years, as awareness improves, this practice of keeping the children at home is now seen as ‘old school’ and thus it is increasingly important for the educational system to be more inclusive, prepared, and able to provide an avenue for education for those with disabilities.
Many schools, both private and public, have preschool children that are slow to speak. In some instances the disorder may be Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) but the slower development in speech can also be caused by other factors. Irrespective of the cause, it is important to bring these children into the mainstream as much as possible. If the child is slow to speak then other methods or therapies may help to bring him up-to-speed and able to reach the same milestones as his peer group. If the child is having issues writing then it may be advisable to introduce painting or drawing to improve fine motor skills and to stimulate thought and creativity. These slight changes in approach and methods help the child to grow and develop and ultimately help to create a more inclusive learning environment.
Cambodia is not unique in having a shortage of well-trained teaching professionals in the field of special education. Nevertheless, this shortage will need to be addressed as special education programs become the norm across the kingdom. Experienced special education teachers often meet with the child one-on-one to identify what can be done in terms of appropriate and personalized learning techniques. Each child is different, with varying degrees of confidence and competence depending on the domain, thus, it is imperative that teaching professionals are developed who can work in this specialized niche of education.
The ministry(MoEYS) in Cambodia has allocated budgets to support five public sector pilot schools(APR 2019) but it will also need to address the needs for teachers with discipline-specific education and experience in special education. At present the ministry is not yet ready to credential schools for special education but this may change in the near future. A few private schools in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap already have adhoc programs for their existing students but these programs are not widespread and not readily available to the general public.
Schools in Phnom Penh with Special Education Programs:
This list is not exhaustive. As mentioned, some schools address special education on an as-needed basis for their own students.
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