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Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume II

Human Rights Teaching Methodology in Cambodian Primary and Secondary Schools

Cambodian Institute of Human Rights

To date, 18,637 teachers and education officials have been trained in the Human Rights Teaching Methodology (HRTM) program of the Cambodian Human Rights Institute (CHRI). The teachers come from nearly 25 percent of all primary and secondary schools in Cambodia. They include senior master trainers, secondary school teachers, primary school master trainers, primary school teachers in training and primary school teachers. The most numerous were primary school teachers, 10,484 or 56 percent of the total, reflecting their numerical superiority in the schools. Results have been satisfactory despite the shortfall in funding, which was compensated for using various economic measures.

Summary of Training

Number of Trainees

After surveying 32 schools in various provinces, we found that large majorities of the trainees learned the material well and were using it effectively in the classroom (94 percent success rate). Overwhelmingly, the trainees considered the training to be of high quality and useful. A majority also thought that it had a positive effect on attitude and behavior of students and teachers. The following is a statistical summary of the results of the field survey and questionnaires.

Questionnaire Results for Teachers (October 1996)

Questionnaire Results for Teachers

Results of Field Survey (October 1996)

Results of Field Survey

The institute engaged a professional evaluator to conduct a thorough headquarters and field evaluation of the HRTM program after the second year. The evaluation, conducted in November-December 1997, provided fresh information on project performance and enabled us to modify the program to make it more efficient and effective.

The results of the training have been satisfactory: as of September 1996, 18,637 teachers and educational officials had been trained in human rights teaching methodology, which means that roughly 1 million pupils per year were exposed to the concepts of human rights and democracy. The efficiency of the training, using master trainers as multipliers, is also an important positive consideration. To date, each original master trainer has taught an average of 610 teachers.

Scope of Influence of Training

Scope of Influence of Training

Most of the trainees have mastered the material taught and are able to use it in the classroom. The written materials are highly usable for different levels of instruction. And—although this is most difficult to measure—a more positive attitude and behavior regarding human rights and democracy can be discerned on the part of teachers and students. We therefore conclude that the project has succeeded both in its direct training goals and in its larger objective of spreading the values of human rights, democracy and nonviolence throughout Khmer society and helping create a genuine democratic civic culture.

Finally, the government strongly supports the project and human rights education (HRE), which is essential to ensure the permanence of and priority given to human rights instruction.

Mastery of Material by Trainees

All trainees took tests to determine their grasp of the material presented to them during the training sessions. Results indicate that a large majority (75 percent of secondary school teachers) gained a satisfactory or better understanding of the concepts taught. This figure is supported by teachers' self-reports in questionnaires, which also indicate that an overwhelming majority believe they understand the material and can use the methods in the classroom. The results are remarkably good given the educational background of the teachers. Because huge numbers of teachers were killed or exiled during the Khmer Rouge years, most teachers today have less—sometimes much less—than a high school education, and little teacher training. Their mastery of the material thus indicates both their high motivation and the quality of the training and training materials.

We are also pleased by the progressive increase during the project of the skills of the trainers and the Education Ministry supervisory committees and local organizing committees.

Appropriateness of the Material

Through questionnaires, subsequent interviews, evaluation meetings and observations, we determined that the material presented to the teachers is appropriate to their classroom needs. Most of the teachers themselves consider the materials, methodology and instruction appropriate. Teachers have pointed out a variety of minor corrections that should be made in the curriculum, especially typographical or spelling mistakes. The teaching material is continuously refined and developed.


Teachers in the program are highly motivated both to learn and to teach. This conclusion is supported by the statistical data as well as anecdotal observation. The questionnaires showed that 90 percent or more of the teachers found training "very important" or "important." The most frequent comment from teachers was that they wanted more training.

The following observations also reveal how much many teachers sacrificed to attend the training:

  • Teachers attend regularly. There are no absences.
  • Some travel long distances, spending large sums for transportation (which are not reimbursed).
  • Some dare to come from or cross Khmer-Rouge-controlled areas for training. One such area is Banteay Ampil, where no government officials go, according to the teachers. The hazardous journey costs the teachers $20, or a month's salary.
  • Some tend their rice fields early in the morning, and then come directly to the training sessions, still muddy from their work.
  • Nursing mothers sometimes bring their babies to class as they have no daycare, feeding their children during the breaks.
  • Trainees routinely spend their own money to attend the training. Travel expenses are not reimbursed. The daily $2 allowance is not enough for food and lodging.
  • Trainees often extend the training sessions way beyond the scheduled closing. Half-day sessions with the CIHR director have frequently stretched to full days at the request of the trainees.

Teaching Effectiveness in the Classroom

The way teachers conduct demonstration and then real classes shows that they pass on human rights and democracy concepts to their students. Anecdotal evidence—such as the perfect scores of children in a televised human rights contest organized by CIHR for high school students who had been taught by teachers in the HRTM program—is also telling. There is, understandably, something lost between what the teachers have mastered and what the children learn. This can be remedied only if human rights classes are taught at all grade levels, so that what is learned in the fourth grade, for example, will be reinforced in the fifth. Reinforcement outside the classroom (such as electing student officers, as CIHR has suggested) will also help.

The broader objective of the project, and the most difficult to measure, is not merely increasing knowledge about human rights, but inculcating respect for human rights among students. The evidence shows that the objective is being met. Further, information on teaching effectiveness and attitude change was obtained during the formal post-training evaluation.

While we do not rely heavily on the results of the questionnaires, we do think they show that virtually all teachers believe that training, in general, is a positive experience, and one that is expected to change teachers' and students' behavior by as much as 80 percent.

The following observations lead us to conclude that the training is effective even outside the classroom.

  • Teachers and students discuss human rights outside as well as inside the classroom.
  • Students discuss human rights issues with their parents.

Sustainability of the Program

A basic goal of the project is to make HRE a permanent and integral part of Cambodia's primary and secondary education system. Considerable progress has been made in this regard. It can be noted in terms of the human resources developed (teachers and master trainers who will be teaching human rights and methodology for years to come). It can also be seen in the official support and instructions of the government to include human rights in the permanent curriculum. Support comes from the first and second prime ministers, the minister of education, Education Ministry officials, provincial governors and their deputies, provincial education departments and school directors throughout the country. The government has officially adopted the HRTM curriculum and requires new teachers to undergo HRE training before they graduate. The Education Ministry has asked the CIHR to train all primary and secondary school teachers within five years as part of the official ministry plan for 1998-2002.

Equally important, however, is the strong network of officials and teachers everywhere whose continuing commitment will ensure that the teaching will be done faithfully and well in all schools. The CIHR nurtures its ties with the trainees so that they can renew and strengthen their enthusiasm and commitment. The program seeks to create and strengthen a community of like-minded people who will continue to support human rights in and outside the classroom for many years to come.

The Role of Women

The project places special importance on the role of women, both as trainees and in terms of subject matter and methodology. The rights of women, including issues such as domestic violence, are an important part of the subject matter of the training and resource materials. Trainees are taught to encourage female students to stay in school and to emphasize women's issues. Demonstration classes indicate that the teachers have grasped these points; they are careful, for example, to call upon girls as well as boys to answer questions. Many teachers have noted this aspect of the CIHR program with approval, while observing as well that the equality of women goes against traditional Khmer culture. Nonetheless, the CIHR has been able to train in this area without conflict with the authorities.

While the institute does not have the final say in selecting the trainees, it encourages the inclusion of women. Overall, the percentage of women among trainees is increasing, from 40 percent in October 1996 to 45 percent in October 1997. The percentage of women trainees is significantly higher at the primary level—the level now being taught—than at the secondary level: only 29 percent of the junior and senior high school teachers trained are women.

Men and Women Trainees

Men and Women Trainees

Evaluative Comments (October 1996-October 1997)

Certain informal evaluative observations can be made about the project for the period since the last progress report (October 1996-October 1997).

Training was fully successful. Testing and observation of model classes reveal that teachers have grasped the essentials of the participatory methods taught by CIHR. They involve the students actively, as individuals and as groups, in discussions, games and other activities. They have learned to integrate human rights teaching into other subjects such as reading. And they have taken care to draw female students fully into class discussions. The number of female trainees remains substantial, slightly less than half (45 percent). The institute will continue to encourage the ministry to select female trainees in large numbers.

The training remains cost-effective, with a high program multiplicating power (the figure indicating how many trainees each original master trainer has trained). Each original master trainer has now taught a minimum of 610 teachers, up from 354 a year ago.

Program Multiplicating Power

Program Multiplicating Power

Improvement in behavior is harder to measure. However, teachers generally report their belief that the training significantly changes their own and their students' attitudes and behavior. The coordinators perceive a greater receptivity to human rights and sensitivity toward women among trainees. The objective of having people know how to use their rights, and not only know about them, is being met.

The enthusiasm and dedication of the teachers is remarkable. There is no absenteeism. Women students sometimes bring their nursing babies. The demand for books and posters by the trainees is very high. Some training sessions take place in one week, during which the school is closed, but some are spread out over 12 half-days. This means the teachers must first teach their normal class load and then travel, sometimes over a long distance, to the HRTM training site for another long session.

Primary school teachers are not quite as adept at understanding the concepts presented as the secondary school teachers. This requires teaching at a lower level of complexity. Similarly, the primary school master trainers are not as strong as the secondary ones, in part because they practice their skills less.

Government support remains excellent and has even increased. Provincial governors and district chiefs frequently come to opening and closing ceremonies. They often request that training be continued or expanded, and send thank-you letters after the training. They have even asked that all teachers be trained in their province or district. This is not possible, because the CIHR and Ministry of Education train a core group of teachers in each province or municipality (19 areas so far) who will then teach other teachers in the area, especially when external funding is no longer available.

The Ministry of Education intends to train 10,000 to 12,000 teachers every year from 1998 to 2002. Collaboration with the ministry at all levels is very good.

Interestingly, the training has drawn support from many local chief monks. They attend opening and closing sessions and ask that similar training be given to the population, especially before national elections. As they are highly respected, their support encourages broad community acceptance.

Transportation remains a serious problem because poor road conditions make it almost impossible to reach some sites by land. (Some may be reached by air, but this is costly.) Hence four-wheel-drive vehicles would be extremely useful. For remote areas such as Koh Kong, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, staff and materials must be transported by air. Costs are minimized by holding several classes at once—of primary school teachers, secondary school teachers and master trainers—with CIHR staff members as master trainers. (Normally, Mondulkiri should be supported by master trainers from Phnom Penh, but they are too occupied with other duties.) We have transported materials to other remote areas by asking speedboat or airplane passengers to carry them for us. Sometimes the messengers are members of the military and police who know the CIHR.

Travel is also a problem for teachers, some of whom must travel long distances. In the case of classes in Kampot, teachers had to go 15 kilometers each way to the training site, so a dormitory was established at the training site.

Some equipment, notably the project computer, is old and has started to malfunction. They should be replaced in the coming year. Facilities, especially in rural areas, are sometimes inadequate. Sometimes HRTM workshops (model classes) are difficult to arrange and conduct properly because of the lay-out of classes and the number of pupils (sometimes 60 to 70 per class).

Funding is a major concern for the future of the project. Steadier and longer-term funding is needed to run the training smoothly without the interruptions that may slow its pace and increase per-trainee costs.


The project is proceeding well in all respects, except for the uncertainty of funding. A large core group has been instructed which will reach approximately 1 million school children each year. The Ministry of Education's long-term commitment to the project and training of a core group of teachers in each province or municipality contributes to the program's sustainability. HRTM training for all new teachers at the regional pedagogical schools will also extend the program's reach. (Teachers in training receive HRTM training in their last year, before they go out and begin teaching children.)

We are especially encouraged by the highly positive attitudes toward this project of the master trainers, teacher-trainees and all levels of the Cambodian government, especially provincial officials and the Ministry of Education. We believe that this indicates that the teachers will enthusiastically teach what they have learned and that the Cambodian government will continue to support both training of teachers and classroom instruction in human rights over the long-term, with or without external aid.

Informal methods of instruction have been shown to be a valuable and effective supplement to formal instruction. Magazine contests, TV and radio add to the knowledge of teachers and their supervisors as do the tens of thousands of copies of publications distributed by the institute to school teachers, education officials and school libraries throughout the country. Public attitudes are also positively influenced, creating a welcoming community environment for human rights training and practice.

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