agrarian society, Khmer Rouge regime, University of Phnom Penh, Secondary education, institutions of higher learning
An estimated 35 percent of Cambodia’s adult population is literate. Public education is free and compulsory for the first 6 years. Primary school attendance increased rapidly in the 1990s, and by 1998 virtually all children were enrolled, as well as many older people who were unable to attend school in earlier years. Secondary education was more limited, with only 22 percent of eligible children enrolled. Seven institutions of higher learning, including the University of Phnom Penh, the University of Fine Arts, and the University of Agricultural Sciences, operate in the country. Only 1 percent of Cambodians of usual university age were enrolled in these schools in 1998.
Perennially handicapped by insufficient funding, Cambodia’s educational system was devastated in the late 1970s when the Khmer Rouge regime closed schools and executed thousands of teachers. The regime viewed intellectuals, among others, as potential sources of opposition to its attempt to create an ideal socialist, agrarian society. In the 1980s thousands more teachers fled the country or sought better-paying work. Ever since then, efforts to revive the education system have been hampered by a shortage of funds and trained personnel.
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