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Program Overview

Cambodia has achieved a remarkably high net enrollment ratio (NER) for primary school (95%), although the NER falls precipitously for lower secondary (32%). Despite improvements in recent years in the areas of access and quality of education in Cambodia, dropout is still an issue.

As a result, there is a continued need to reinforce access to and provision of effective basic education services, so that students who enter the system in Grade 1 remain and progress in school and complete their basic education, so they have the foundational knowledge and skills needed to pursue additional education, training or employment.

The country’s new Education Strategic Plan 2009-2013 has introduced core indicators related to student dropout, such as the number of districts with rates meeting or surpassing 80 percent and the number of complete schools with a repetition rate below 10 percent. SDPP interventions to reduce dropout are also relevant to improved cycle completion and reduced repetition. SDPP will also be supporting MoEYS’s efforts to achieve Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goal 2: Universal Access to Basic Education by 2015.

Based on results of an analysis of dropout trends in the country, SDPP will work to reduce dropout among students in grades 7, 8, and 9, in selected schools in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat Provinces, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, and Svay Rieng provinces.

SDPP’s implementing partner in Cambodia is KAPE, who will work in close collaboration with the MOEYS, including the Department of Planning, ICT Department, Provincial Primary and Secondary Education Offices, and district-level counterparts.

Dropout Trends

Analysis of Cambodia’s Education Management Information System data shows that:

  • Dropout is most acute at the lower secondary cycle among male and female students (20%), compared with primary (9%) and upper secondary cycle (12%).
  • Dropout is highest in Grades 7, 8, 9.
  • The dropout rate spikes in key entry/exit points for the various educational levels—grades 7 (20%), grade 9 (21%), and grade 12 (15%).

Dropout Rate by Grade: 2009/10

Dropout in Context

A situational analysis was conducted in three high-dropout provinces to identify the factors and conditions associated with dropout, develop a profile of a child at risk of dropping out, and inform intervention selection and design.  The top reasons of student dropout among 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students in the target provinces—cited by at-risk students, dropouts, and their parents/guardians— are both economic and academic.

Economic reasons are the top three reasons cited:

  • Nearly three-quarters of the at-risk students, dropouts, and dropouts’ parents/guardians cited the need to supplement income through household chores or domestic work. About half cited the need to work to earn money.
  • 50% of at-risk students and their parents/guardians and 33% of dropouts and parents/guardians cited school-related expenses.

Students also drop out of school for academic reasons:

  • About one-third of dropouts and one-fifth of at-risk students said they were unable to keep up with their lessons.
  • About 20% of at-risk students and dropouts cite poor academic performance.
  • Chronic absenteeism is a major contributor to dropout.  Over half of at-risk students and one-third of dropouts have missed more than 15 consecutive days of school; 80–90% missed up to four days per month. 66% of at-risk parents/guardians reported they have kept their child at home when not ill; while 56% of the parents/guardians reported they were not aware of their child’s school attendance.
  • Negative behavior exists: About 16% of child respondents say they have broken school rules.
  • Parents/guardians were twice as likely as their child to say the child did not like school.

Other factors (10% of respondents) cited for dropout were: illness and distance to school. Factors not frequently cited: poor school quality, overage, discouraged by teachers, marriage, and lack of latrines.

 Top Reasons of Dropout by Students, Dropouts, Parent/Guardians Top Reasons of Dropout by School Personnel, District Education
Officer (DEO), Community Leaders

The Interventions

In agreement with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, SDPP will target grades 7, 8, and 9 in six provinces—Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, Pursat, and Svay Rieng.  Key education stakeholders attended a design workshop to develop ideas for dropout mitigation through a consultative process. Two priority interventions—an Early Warning System and Computer Labs—were developed, consistent with the ministry strategic sector plan and replicability requirements.  Implementation is planned to start in September 2012.

Early Warning System (to reduce student absenteeism and support at-risk students in school)

  • Use existing school level data on attendance, performance, behavior etc. to identify students at-risk of dropping out of school
  • Enhance the capacity of schools to address the needs of at-risk students
  • Strengthen the partnership between school personnel and the parents/guardians of at-risk students

Computer Labs (to increase relevancy of education to students and parents/guardians)

  • Install low-cost computer labs in schools, using a “thin-client” model powered entirely by solar energy
  • Provide computer literacy training to students to increase perceptions of the value of and interest in schooling

Impact Assessment

Intervention impact on dropout will be assessed using randomized control trials. Outcome measures include in- and between-grade dropout, grade completion, promotion, attendance, and performance. Changes in student, teacher, and parental knowledge, attitudes and practices for dropout prevention will also be measured. Data will be collected and analyzed at baseline, mid-term, and end-line.

A sample of 322 schools was selected (based on an anticipated dropout reduction of 7 percentage points). Only schools that have target grades, are not subject to high migration, are accessible, have a room to dedicate to a computer lab and agree to participate in SDPP were included in the sample.

Schools were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups:  215 schools will receive the EWS intervention, 108 schools (of the 215) will also receive computer labs, and 107 schools will receive no interventions and serve as the control group.

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