Seeing our program in action: Cambodia reflections

Recently, senior leadership team members from India and Australia travelled to Cambodia to see the difference our program is making in rural schools first-hand, as well as to meet with the Plus Education Cambodia team. They visited schools across the districts of Koh Sotin, Kang Maes and Jeung Prey to see our program in action. Our Head of Foundation, Lisa Colquhoun, shares some of her insights and experiences from the trip—read more below.

Tell us a little bit about your recent trip to Cambodia.

It was my first time visiting Cambodia since 2005 and the first time since joining the Plus Education team. I, along with our CEO and Head of Programs, travelled from Australia and India to meet with the Cambodia team, as well as with teachers and students of our Plus English program, school directors and district officials. We visited a number of schools and observed our program in action, and we collected stories and feedback from key stakeholders. We also took the opportunity to sit down together as the leadership team (in person for the very first time!) to plan for the year ahead, bouncing our ideas off one another in a way that our usual remote meetings don’t allow. It was a fantastic experience, one which reassured me of the need for our program and which I believe will help me, in my role, to better communicate the impact of our work. 

What did you learn about the impact our program has had on the students you met?
 
During our visit to schools, I spent quite a bit of time interviewing students to understand the impact of our program on their learning experiences and lives more broadly. While the learning data we capture through the Plus app gives us a clear sense of how students are progressing and performing, it can be difficult for some people, including myself, to imagine numbers leading to real-life outcomes. For me, hearing the personal stories of students really filled in that gap. I learned that our program is doing so much more for children than simply improving their English grades; it’s stirring their interest in different cultures and giving them greater confidence to engage with people from other countries. Their dreams, I found, are no less ambitious and varied than those of their more privileged peers in the cities and more developed countries. They want to be doctors, pilots, journalists, teachers, engineers. They want to travel and experience a world beyond the confines of their village, and they see English as their ticket to achieving their dreams. Our program is giving them hope that they can one day realise their dreams, which is very obviously motivating for them and facilitating their progress.
 
What did you learn about the impact our program has had on the teachers you met?
 
I learned that teachers are benefitting from our program in ways I hadn’t considered. For example, one teacher spoke of previously spending every evening scouring the internet for English learning content to share with his students, which inevitably took precious time away from his family. Because our app curates quality content, and it all aligns directly to the national English curriculum in Cambodia, this teacher says he has been able to reclaim his evenings for his family since using our program. This has, in turn, reduced his stress levels and made him a much happier, more effective teacher.
 
What are some of the key takeaways you learned through consultations with students and teachers?
 
I think the main takeaway, for me at least, was that both students and teachers alike really do value our program, and they especially value English literacy. English has become the language of development, modernity and progress in Cambodia, and as the country continues to develop and shrug off the shackles of its very dark history, there is a clear thirst for English which shone through during our consultations with students and teachers. It feels very satisfying knowing we’re helping to meet this demand, particularly for those who, because of affordability and connectivity limitations, are excluded from alternative English learning solutions.
 
Finally, what was it like meeting the team face-to-face for the first time?
 
It was surreal. That first moment of locking eyes with people I know yet don’t know was very strange. Some of my colleagues are much taller than I had imagined! After the initial strangeness of it all, however, it was wonderful getting to know them better.

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About Plus Education

Plus Education is the group operating name of registered Australian charity, The 40K Foundation Australia Ltd, and its subsidiary organisations, 40K Plus Education in India and Cambodia.

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