Children learning better together in Cambodia
More than 3.2 million children are out of school in south-east Asia, a third of whom are estimated to be children with disabilities. Barriers to education include gender and racial discrimination, geographical distance, inadequate support for children with disabilities, school costs, languages differences, migration and emergency situations caused by conflict or natural disaster. These challenges are often intertwined, making the situation more complex to address.
In Cambodia, there is no official data on the numbers of children with disabilities who go to school, and there is also limited information on the numbers of people with disabilities in general. Although Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) has made vast improvements in the education system in recent years, children with disabilities are still highly likely to be out of school. Even if these children go to school, they often do not receive the support they need to succeed and are far more likely to drop out.
To help address this issue, the MoEYS has produced “inclusive education guidelines” to help teachers and school administrators identify children with disabilities, along with general guidance to help teachers make their teaching methods more inclusive. However, until recently, there was no specific guidance on how to teach children with intellectual impairments.
With funding support from the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children in Cambodia has produced a practical Manual on Teaching Children with Intellectual Disabilities, Learning Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The manual—the first of its kind in Cambodia—includes practical advice for teachers on how they can make their own teaching materials to respond to students’ individual learning needs. It also includes guidance on classroom management, lesson planning and how to create individual education plans for children with special learning needs. Setting up these guidelines is one of the key objectives of the project. The manual is currently being translated into Khmer so that it can be adopted and rolled out nationally by MoEYS.
Our work on the IKEA project has shown that when teachers have the necessary materials and teaching methods, students learn so much more. We have observed how happy children with disabilities are to participate in class and learn alongside their peers with appropriate materials. Having these materials makes a real difference in motivating and encouraging them to come to school, because they can see their teachers recognizing and responding to their needs. The other children in the class also benefit—we can see how much they enjoy learning with these teaching aids!
About the IKEA: Inclusive Education for All project
In Cambodia, Save the Children, with funding from IKEA Foundation, has developed and promoted inclusive education, targeting marginalised children including girls, children with disabilities and children from highly deprived families.
The project responds to the rural realities of high drop-out, repetition and non-enrolment rates. Children with disabilities are an important group of children previously not reached and their enrolment rates have steadily increased as a direct result of this project. The experience has demonstrated that the interventions teachers make for learners with disabilities benefit all students through improved, student-centred teaching methods and materials.
Through this project, Save the Children is demonstrating how deprived children can be reached and welcomed to school, by supporting their cognitive, social and emotional learning. The project helps children develop to their full potential by addressing their individual learning needs.
 Oslo Summit for Education for Development (2015) Towards a disability inclusive education
 Project Baseline Study – Final Report (Aug. 2016)