Most of the children who benefit from the remedial school programme have never been to school or have fallen well behind. They cannot follow during classes in state schools and are often failing, which often leads to them dropping out of school. The remedial school programme offers fast-track tuition for children so they can catch up two academic years in one. They can go from grades 1 to 8 in 4 calendar years.
Entering in the programme
Once they have been selected by the social team, the children are guided towards the most suitable programmes, including remedial schooling. "We welcome more than 700 students each year" explains San Sameth, responsible of the remedial school programme. "The pace of learning is intense!"
The classes are held in PSE's school in Phnom Penh, the curriculum is specially adapted. At the end of the course, students integrate into grade 9 and can take their Brevet (equivalent to GCSE / GNVQ).
'Friend have friend'
"We implemented 'Friend have Friend', a small group of volunteers who help the teachers to maintain discipline, to take care of the cleanliness of the classroom and above all they have the duty to share their knowledge with any of younger children who are finding things difficult" explains San Sameth.
The members of this group are chosen by the teachers from students whose behaviour and grades are exemplary. Students get the choice whether to accept to be a member of this group; it's a real commitment from the 25 to 35 youngsters who are chosen each year.
The main objective of the remedial school programme is to improve the knowledge and capacity of the children in the core subjects taught in state schools: maths, Khmer, social sciences (history, geography and arts). On top of these mandatory classes, they are taught English, French, media studies and for the older children - computer science. Courses are based on the methodology and the curriculum delivered in state schools; the PSE teachers also prepare specific classes. This allows students to talk about Cambodia and news topics.
To complement these classes, PSE organises two school trips every year for each grade just before or after studying a specific in class. Therefore, when the young students study about the Angkor temples, they go and visit them. "They can see the practical aspect of what they studied" San Sameth explains. "It helps them develop open-mindedness which is good for them and motivates them".
The teachers' role
PSE places great importance on the achievements of the students and ensures the teachers are at the heart of educational system. They meet every week to improve the quality of their teaching. These discussions have already led to the development of several educational tools to improve the remedial school programme such as group learning or providing support classes in maths, physics, chemistry and Khmer.
Act with the support of the families
Parent / teacher meetings are organised twice a year to explain the programmes and the methodology that is used. In 2017/18, 550 parents came to those sessions. One-to-one meetings are also available.
"PSE offers classes to the poorest of the poor. That means that they youngsters don't have the opportunity to have an education equivalent to better off youngsters. The majority don't know how to study or learn. We need to work closely with the families so the youngsters benefit from all the support they need, even outside classes" explains San Sameth.
Sometimes, we have to adapt for special cases: disciplinary or bad grades. "No student is left behind" emphasises San Sameth and solutions are explored for every case. Support classes given by the teachers or the members of 'Friend have friend' group are offered, and disciplinary groups are set up to find solutions that meet the needs of the child. "We are always disappointed if a youngster drops out of school. That is why, when we believe than a student is at risk of dropping out, we guide them to the 'Entre Deux' programme" San Sameth adds.
All these initiatives ensure there are high pass rates in the national exams of 9th grade (equivalent to Brevet or GCSE). All of our students (79 pupils) obtained their diploma in 2017-2018.
"One of the objectives of the remedial school programme is to improve teaching by encouraging youngsters to develop their self-analysis and critical thinking" explains San Sameth. That's why students are encouraged and trained to study independently. They also have time for group work. PSE has also implemented human education classes for all its students, so youngsters can develop fully.