Teaching in Cambodia: A once in a lifetime experience

Teaching in Cambodia: A once in a lifetime experience
03/05/2016

January 19th, the beginning of an extraordinary experience!

For four months, from January 19th until May 20th 2016, we discovered Cambodian education and experienced the country in all its aspects.
The first two months we lived in Kampong Cham. The VVOB staff helped us to find a place to stay. We rented an apartment let by a 76-year-old Cambodian woman. By the end of our stay, we considered her as family.

Teaching in Kampong Cham

During eight weeks we taught at the Toul Thmor Primary and Secondary School in Kampong Cham. Femke taught mathematics and science in grade 2 and 5; Sien in grade 4 and 1. During these two months we also taught English, Femke in grade four and Sien in grade five, outside the regular curriculum.
It wasn’t always easy because all books were in Khmer. But the Cambodian student teachers we worked with, helped us a lot! We taught in English and they translated it into Khmer.

Teaching English gave us a lot of satisfaction because we noticed the students were really eager to learn the language. We taught English for one hour, four times in a row, to four different classes. This gave us the opportunity to reflect on the previous lesson in order to improve the next one.

Active teaching and learning

Introducing teaching methods like teamwork, cooperative methods, games et cetera during the lessons, we tried to clarify that ‘the active pupil’ is the best contributing factor in learning. We felt convincing our fellow student teachers of this, was part of our mission. Not only did we share our knowledge with the Cambodian teachers and students, we also learned a lot from them. It was two-way traffic without the obligation to turn in a particular way.

Besides teaching we prepared workshops for the Provincial Teacher Training Centre and those took place at the end of April. The topic was ‘Student centred approach in a powerful learning environment’. We were able to combine the topic with our Bachelor’s thesis, ‘What is the value of a pedagogic didactical scheme while trying to achieve a powerful learning environment?’. (Content of the workshop can be found attached below this article.)

Would we recommend it?

The co-operation with the VVOB staff was very pleasant. We were given several tasks while enough space was provided for our own contribution and input. They were open-minded and always in for something new. We could always ask for help and support. We really felt like part of the team.

Our international internship in Cambodia was the opportunity of a lifetime to expand our horizon and to find out how other countries approach education. Our cultural and social experiences were given a boost and we learned to cope better with children from different backgrounds. During this exceptional experience we discovered new techniques and methods to grow and develop into the teacher our multicultural society needs. Thanks to this internship we have a 'big bag' full of ideas, knowledge, skills and experiences from which we can draw on during our first steps in the field.

This international internship in Cambodia made ​​us come home as version 2.0!
If you are ever given the chance to experience an internship abroad, take it!

Article written by Femke Cillen and Sien Huwel, student teachers from Howest Brugge, teacher training college,
May 2016