From accredited international schools for children to career enhancing postgraduate courses, access to quality education is a key consideration when relocating to a new country.
Fortunately, Phnom Penh has primary and secondary education covered at its array of excellent international schools. When it comes to higher education, while not every university course is world-class, partnerships with institutes in the US and Europe – together with membership of global professional bodies – is raising standards.
For many newcomers, finding the right school for their children is a top priority. Phnom Penh has an ever-growing number of educational institutions, with incredible variety in both quality – from excellent to satisfactory to downright poor – and price.
To ensure continuity and excellence of education, consider schools accredited by organisations such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), Council of International Schools (CIS), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the International Primary/Middle Years Curriculum (IP/MYC).
Cambodia’s premier schools hire senior, highly qualified teachers from around the world, scouring international career fairs to find the very best. Educator expertise, curricular rigour and a multi-cultural environment promotes diversity of ideas, which stimulate children’s intellect and instil key social skills to prepare young minds for our increasingly globalised world.
Several excellent international schools call Phnom Penh home, including frontrunners the International School of Phnom Penh, the first fully internationally accredited school in the country, and Northbridge International School, part of the prestigious Nord Anglia Education family of schools. Both are equipped with generous on-campus facilities and rich extracurricular programmes. Tuition fees range from $7,000 to $24,000 and $5,000 to $22,00 per year respectively depending on a student’s age, to which capital fees of 10-15% are applied.
In the same class is the Australian International School Phnom Penh (AISPP), located in the heart of the expanding Rousey Keo neighbourhood. AISPP provides a 21st Century education based on the Australian Curriculum intertwined with the IB Learning Framework, from Day 1 of a child’s formal education to their last day of Senior High – all on a single brand new campus.
Students enjoy small class sizes and superb facilities, including specialised learning environments and modern classrooms, maker spaces, 25m swimming pool, full-sized football pitch, plus free-range farm, organic garden and orchard.
Native English speakers teach the Curriculum, primarily from Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Experienced staff utilise Australian National Curriculum concepts, skills and knowledge through the IB to ensure children get the best possible start to life and learning.
iCAN British International School and the Canadian International School of Phnom Penh (CISPP) also receive top marks for educational excellence through to middle years, hiring internationally certified teachers, with fees up to $13,000 and $15,000 per year respectively. Both schools have centrally located campuses and CISPP’s brand new middle years campus is worth a mention- complete with swimming pool, running track and black box theatre, all on the Diamond Island (Koh Pich) waterfront.
More affordable at under $8,000 per year are international schools Lycée Descartes, licensed by the French government offering Brevet des Collèges and the Baccalauréat; Footprints, and East-West, both accredited by WASC and offering Cambridge International Examinations.
Reputable international schools offer scholarships for academically gifted students, some even have tiered fees whereby Cambodian (or French in the case of Lycée Descartes) nationals receive a sizeable discount.
Combining the personalised, hands-on approach of home schooling with the rigour of international accreditation is The Giving Tree. The brainchild of expat mothers Anna and Anya, the school offers part- and full-time programs from 6 months to 11 years, following the International Primary Curriculum. Instruction is in English, with the option to study Japanese, French, and Khmer. Tuition ranges from $2,000 to $6,000 depending on age.
Plenty of schools in Cambodia have “International” in the title but precious few live up to the above standards, so be sure to do your research and proceed with caution before enrolling. A significant number of schools in Cambodia operate under dubious professional principles, such as hiring teachers based solely on their ability to speak English, not possession of a teaching qualification. Furthermore, sub-par schools are likely to follow Cambodia’s conventional teaching methodology- rote learning- which does little to prepare children with the problem-solving and critical thinking skills required to meet the complex challenges of today’s world.
To ensure a good education for your children, a healthy dose of due diligence is recommended. Start with a school’s website to gauge their facilities, curriculum and approach to education; read their by-laws and/or charter. Once you’ve narrowed down the contenders, contact the school(s) and request a tour.
Naturally, the kids should be involved- Phnom Penh’s wide array of schools means their learning style, educational and extra-curricular preferences can be catered for, and after all, they will be there every day!
If you’re seeking complementary new skills and/or further professional development for yourself, Phnom Penh has various internationally accredited institutions offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, diplomas and short courses in a range of subjects, from languages to management.
Among these are the Royal University of Phnom Penh (established in 1960) and Buddhist-aligned Paññasastra University of Cambodia, where numerous undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are on offer. The Royal University of Law and Economics offers dual Master’s degrees accredited by top-ranking French institutions, while The American University of Cambodia has US-accredited bachelor’s and master’s programmes. Students at CamEd Business School earn qualifications in finance and accounting recognised by global professional body, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
There are also a number of venues offering vocational courses, such the Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodia that offers an internationally recognised two-year diploma accredited by the Swiss Hotel Management Academy Lucerne (SHL).
Extracurricular courses, from languages to creative writing through to the visual arts and IT can be sought through institutions including The Dance Academy, Soundskool, GlobalArt and Phare Ponleu Selpak.
New app Eduquest may help cut through the confusion- the pioneering platform draws on a broad cross section of stakeholders to gather information and insights about education institutes and products in one place.