This paper presents an analysis of the current situation in the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MOEYS) programs of student assessments and quality assurance. It begins by specifying the MOEYS’s main educational quality and learning outcomes objectives and then identified the kinds of assessments and quality assurance efforts that any government would need to pursue to optimize the realization of such objectives (an optimal framework drawn from a “theory of change” articulated by RTI in its 2015 paper.1
Analysis of the Quality Assurance Framework
What is needed (the optimal framework) was then compared with the current MOEYS framework. In general, the comparison revealed the Ministry’s current/planned assessment and quality assurance programs cover the elements of the optimal framework well. The assessments relate both to the country’s domestic agenda of promoting the “socio-economic and domestic needs of its people” and the global one of “meeting international standards” and promoting “job market competitiveness.” A review of the emerging “whole school quality improvement” program for general education reveals a comprehensive program for both tracking school performance and identifying factors that need improvement and ways of doing so. The only element missing in the Cambodian framework, compared to the optimal one, is a “regular system of in-class observation and mentoring of teachers,” which many countries have found to be crucial, for example, in improving the teaching of early grade reading.
The above summary highlights the various assessment practices -- both those needed, according to theory, and those that are operational (or in the serious planning stages), but says nothing about the overall system that holds the practices together and connects them to other systems, what the current Education Strategic Plan (ESP) refers to as the “holistic accountability framework” or a “results-based management system.” Governance reform in Cambodia thus calls for its being both results-based (in relation to standards and benchmarks) and integrated (“holistic”) within a coherent system or framework. The overall system or framework for education has not yet been fully mapped out, but it is clear that it embraces a number of sub-systems, such as those for physical infrastructure, human resources, finances, and quality. In the current ESP, the educational quality sub-system is prioritized and thus building a “quality assurance” framework has been prioritized. While not all the components of the framework have been defined, it has been characterized as at least covering student assessments and quality assurance (program) reviews, given its results-driven focus of the Plan.
This review focuses on these two elements (student learning assessments and quality assurance reviews). A few impressions are already apparent concerning the essential framework features mentioned above, results-based and integrated (holistic). Concerning the former, it appears in this review that the framework during ESP 2014-18 has not been as guided by standards and benchmarks as it aspired to be (e.g., the ESP does not track any student learning outcome indicators – this will be more fully treated later in this analysis). With respect to the latter (integration), the review found some redundancies across the programs, in both assessments and quality assurance, as well as, in some cases, more data collection than may be needed.
In the real world, this quality assurance framework operates in an environment that is extremely constrained with respect to human and financial resources. For example, it is said that the National Assessment Office only has five full time professionals and that District Offices of Education, which are expected to inspect all public schools each year, have no funds for transportation. Such constraints are what makes efficiency so important, along with other ways of saving and gaining resources such as the government partnering with the private sector, NGOs, and donor agencies.