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MoEYS and UNESCO launch Early Grade Mathematics materials to transform classroom learning


Mathematics is fundamental to how we make sense of the world and the complex challenges we face. Yet, in many education systems around the world, the quality of mathematics education remains a challenge. Globally, 56 per cent of the school-age population is not achieving the minimum proficiency level in mathematics, according to a 2017 UNESCO study. Furthermore, mathematics is often perceived to be difficult and inaccessible by many students, which may negatively affect their performance in the subject.

In recent years, Cambodia has been taking steps to improve student learning outcomes in mathematics and Khmer reading, starting in the early grades. With support from UNESCO and other development partners, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) launched the national early grade learning programme called Komar Rien Komar Cheh in 2020 to improve the quality of lower primary education.

Through the $14.4 million Strengthening Teacher Education Programmes in Cambodia (STEPCam) supported by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the MoEYS and UNESCO have progressively developed and introduced a comprehensive set of materials for early grade mathematics to transform teaching and learning of mathematics for young learners in the classrooms.

On 19 December 2022, the MoEYS organised an official event in Phnom Penh to launch the Grade 3 Mathematics materials package, marking the achievement of a key milestone in the initiative which completes the development of mathematics materials for the full three early grade years. The event was presided over by His Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport and attended by Mr Sardar Umar Alam, UNESCO Representative to Cambodia, MoEYS officials and development partners.

The early grade mathematics materials are aimed at improving the quality of student learning by updating the competencies and teaching methods of teachers. These methods include promoting greater use of classroom activities by teachers and encouraging students to actively participate in these activities and think about the topics they are learning. By introducing active learning strategies in the classrooms, the materials are designed to make learning mathematics more engaging and rewarding. Topics and illustrations in the materials are designed to relate to real-world situations to help students better understand how mathematics is used in everyday situations.

Dr Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport said that with the packages, students will have the knowledge and skills to think, solve problems, calculate numbers quickly and apply them in their daily lives.

The new Grade 3 materials build on the learning outcomes of Grade 1 and 2 packages launched in November 2020 to ensure clear progression with a set of competencies that students are expected to master at the end of the grade. The Grade 1 package has since been implemented in five provinces across Cambodia, while the pilot for Grade 2 in Siem Reap province has been completed. As part of the rollout of Grade 1 and 2 materials, 7,000 teachers underwent rigorous training to use the new student-centred teaching techniques. Additionally, STEPCam supported the establishment of a national mentoring system to ensure teachers can access regular and effective professional support. In total, more than 230,000 Grade 1 and 2 students have benefitted from STEPCam’s support in early grade learning.

With the new teaching and learning materials, Grade 1 and 2 teachers are already seeing an improvement in student learning in their classes – “I noticed that my students have changed. Now, they are happy to learn and are no longer afraid to come to school because we have learning games and teaching methods that draw their attention,” said Chhay Kimsak, a Grade 1 teacher at a primary school in Siem Reap province.

Since the launch of the Grade 1 and 2 materials in 2020, the early grade mathematics packages have received strong support from development partners to provide new investments to reach more students beyond STEPCam-supported provinces. In the coming years, the MoEYS will progressively roll out the materials across all three grades to benefit an additional 131,000 students, with the ultimate goal of achieving nationwide rollout so that every child in Cambodia has access to quality primary education.

Through the four years of STEPCam which ends this year, the MoEYS and UNESCO have promoted continuous professional development and enhanced the competencies of early grade teachers to improve the quality of primary education. The interventions have also contributed to raising the overall professional status and working conditions of teachers in Cambodia and ensuring that they are supported in their professional development. As Cambodia moves into the next phase of its education reform, teacher development will remain a national priority, as re-affirmed by the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport at the Transforming Education Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General in September 2022.

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