Primary students to take on extra classes to restore learning abilities

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After almost two years of school closures, students in rural provincial primary schools have suffered irrefutable negative effects on their education with parents expressing concern and asking authorities to restore the pupils’ abilities to the levels that would have been reached in happier, pre-pandemic times.

A Khmer Times investigation of primary schools in two provinces revealed that during the closures, children at many villages could not access the online digital learning that was provided to them to continue their education at home.

It was attributed to lack of resources or in some cases no available electronic devices, no dedicated area to study in, or a strong reliable internet connection were all barriers to regular class attendance.

In ordinary times, the role of the education programs would be to add to the knowledge of each student as they progress through the various school grades. However, because so many students were unable to access all of the planned online classes, or in some cases, none, the abilities and knowledge of all students varies widely. This has been further compounded by the fact that some students returned to school immediately when the re-openings occurred, but some did not.

Director of Battambang city education department Try Hak said yesterday that there are 34 public primary schools with 500 classrooms in his city with just over 16,000 students enrolled and expects the number to increase on month on month basis.

“For primary students, almost 70% were not able to access online learning due to a lack of resources to support this educational approach. Small children are unfamiliar with online study, and find it difficult to adjust to,” he added.

“With this low education level in mind, the department has added extra remedial classes for them. Thanks to the sacrifices of teachers, they study an extra hour of Khmer language and mathematics and Sunday morning,” he said.

He pointed out that as small children find it very easy to absorb new information, educators will lift their abilities using this extra class approach with results monitored carefully, and if this approach needs to be changed, it will be.

Pi Thnou primary school in Battambang City grade four teacher Van Sokun Bopha said there are 58 students in her class, divided into 3 groups, with two days a week to study.

“My students can’t absorb lessons well; we are not working on new material. Since the school opened, we are reviewing older lessons, and they have almost forgotten those,” she added.

“I taught an extra mathematics class this week. Most of my students don’t seem to know what a rectangle is, or what are length and width are,” she added.

Siem Reap director of the Education Department Ly Bunna said that 60% of the 160,000 students in Siem Reap’s 512 public primary schools have academic abilities which are markedly lower than expected.

“Some of the students don’t have access to the technology needed for online learning or they did not know how to access it. Some of our teachers were unaware of it, too,” he said.

“We have set additional exams, which we will set twice before the end of the academic year, and once more when the new school year begins,” he added.

He said that if students can’t pass the exam stages, they will need to repeat the same grade for one more year.

Wat Bo primary school principal Kun Roth said that the almost 6000 students at his school are divided into two shifts, with each study three days a week and an exam is scheduled for December 29 and another before the new school year begins.

“The exams are set out to evaluate the ability and understanding of the students. It seems that most of the younger students, from grades 1 to 4, are not demonstrating the standards we require, as they had difficulties accessing our online classes during the closures,” he said.

He added that the ability to move to the next grade is important, as quality not quantity is the way to measure educational success.

Som Chiva, the mother of a 9-year-old grade 4 student at Wat Bo, said that her son’s abilities are poor and that he did not seem to have paid attention to his online work.

“I am willing to have my son repeat the same grade if the exams show that my son has failed,” she added.