REGIONAL experts and government officials on Monday used the launch of a report on the Millennium Development Goal for education to highlight areas where Cambodia has not made much progress, notably adult literacy, which some said had been overshadowed by the effort to bolster enrolment at the primary level.
The 2010 Education For All Report highlights the need to improve access to education for Cambodia’s marginalised populations, especially in the remote northeast, which it identified as one of 20 regions worldwide facing “acute education deprivation”.
Those at the launch on Monday said that although it was important to improve access for people in the remote provinces of Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri, there are also large sections of society, such as adults, that are being overlooked nationwide.
Professor Heribert Hinzen, regional director of DVV International, a Germany-based adult education NGO, said it is unlikely that Cambodia will be able to meet the MDG target of cutting illiteracy levels in half by 2015.
“There is a feeling that we will definitely and dramatically fail,” he said, and added that adult literacy is often neglected as government and development partners focus on primary education.
According to the report, adult literacy, as measured between 2000 and 2007, was estimated at 76 percent, and it is projected to increase to 81 percent by 2015.
Abdul Hakeem, education adviser and coordinator for UNESCO in Bangkok, said equitable adult literacy progress had stalled in the last two decades.
“In primary education there is a gender gap, but it is narrowing; but the gender gap in literacy has not changed since 1990,” he said.
Nath Bunroeun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, said informal education programmes had recently been implemented to tackle adult illiteracy in some of the places where it is most widespread.
“In terms of strategy, we provide a functional literacy programme, and we also have a community literacy programme,” he said, and added: “We have implemented this programme in our northern provinces.”
He said that donor assistance for such programmes had declined in the wake of the global financial crisis, and that more action is needed to meet the 2015 deadline.
“We have only five years left. If our partners continue talking for the sake of talking, we will not achieve these goals,” he said. “I think it is quite optimistic to say that Cambodia will achieve education for all by 2015.”