Private Education

For a portion of the urban population in Cambodia, private education was important in the years before the communist takeover. Some private schools were operated by ethnic or religious minorities--Chinese, Vietnamese, European, Roman Catholic, and Muslim--so that children could study their own language, culture, or religion. Other schools provided education to indigenous children who could not gain admission to a public school. Attendance at some of the private schools, especially those in Phnom Penh, conferred a certain amount of prestige on the student and on the student's family.

The private education system included Chinese-language schools, Vietnamese-language (often Roman Catholic) schools, French-language schools, English-language schools, and Khmer-language schools. Enrollment in private primary schools rose from 32,000 in the early 1960s to about 53,500 in 1970, although enrollment in private secondary schools dropped from about 19,000 to fewer than 8,700 for the same period. In 1962 there were 195 Chinese schools, 40 Khmer schools, 15 Vietnamese schools, and 14 French schools operating in Cambodia. Private secondary education was represented by several high schools, notably the Lycée Descartes in Phnom Penh.

All of the Vietnamese schools in Phnom Penh and some of the Chinese schools there were closed by government decree in 1970.

There has been a reemergence of private schools in Phnom Penh. Organizations from Turkey and the U.S. operate private schools and charities. Zaman International operates two elementary and high schools, and A New Day Cambodia pays for the housing and education of 100 students of different ages.

Several non-governmental organization dedicated to education provides this service oriented to unprivileged communities in rural areas, street children, children infected by HIV, handicap children and youth and other groups. Some organizations specialized in technical education offered to young people after high school completion and as an alternative to university. In 2012 Don Bosco Cambodia engaged 1,463 students to technical programs in provinces, but there are public and private technical schools like the National Technical Training Institute, the Phnom Penh Poly Technical School and many others.