6/17/16 – This guest post is written by three students in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program who are conducting field work in Cambodia this summer for their educational startup company.
Suor Sdey! Hello from Education Team in Cambodia! We are taking a respite from the oppressive summer heat, in a thankfully air conditioned coffee shop, to share some of our insights from the last few days of fieldwork. In short, our research focuses on understanding the challenges of gaining secondary education among students from low income families in Cambodia. From our secondary research, of all school-aged children, only 59% enroll in lower secondary school, and 39% in upper secondary school. Simply put, for every 100 kids who enter primary school, only 10 of them will continue on to graduate from high school. The main reasons, also from our secondary research, are financial constraints (the necessity to focus on earning income for their family), the need to do household chores and take care of other family members, and the poor quality and low return on investment of the education they receive.
We arrived in this beautiful and resilient country with these facts and other statistics pertaining to the education sector, and we have heard these same reasons from our partners and community conversations. By connecting with the issue at a human level in the field, through in-depth interviews (so far 6 with parents and 2 with teenagers), casual conversations (with our tuk tuk drivers and street sellers), and focus groups (so far 2) in the urban and semi-urban areas, we have discovered another element to the drop-out rate epidemic during the transition to secondary education: psychological factors.
For example, we have found a pattern among our parents’ responses that internal characteristics such as grit, perseverance, hard-working attitude and a thirst for learning have played a vital role in the education of their children. For some, the reason one of their children decided to drop out is because they could not retain “focus” and they had little motivation to learn. On the other hand, another child living under the same circumstances and environment succeeded because they were very internally driven. This observation and dialog may seem intuitive and obvious, but this is not a factor that we have found in the prominent journals and research articles we studied. We believe this guides us in our pursuit of truly understanding the problem, and will give us more depth as we eventually move toward formulating solutions. Education is an extremely complex issue with so many layers; therefore, we are pleased to be actively peeling back the layers and discovering new dynamics with real people and conversations!
Until next time!