Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Model director discloses practical methods to improve school successfully

By Heng Hak

School director Mr. An talks to students at Puok High School in 
Siem Reap Province about discipline before morning classes start. 
©UNICEF Cambodia/2016/Kimlong Meng

On a normal day, 42-year-old Limkheng An walks from class to class, talks to teachers and students and checks if there is anything he can help with.

As a school director he knows his job well; to improve learning, discipline, teaching and the overall environment at his school.

Mr. An has been the director of Puok High School in Siem Reap Province since 2010.

With a background as a teacher of philosophy for many years, the director position was new and challenging to him.

He approached this task following advice from his predecessor and other education practitioners.    

In 2011, he joined a learning initiative and was trained in school planning and management.

This is part of a programme – the Capacity Development Partnership Fund (CDPF) – to provide education officers across the country with practical skills so that they can deliver a good quality education to students.

CDPF is led by the Ministry of Education and Sports, with support from the EU, Sweden and UNICEF.  

The training is the first proper learning programme Mr. An has ever received.  He found it useful, practical, and applied it straight away.

“Earlier my management skill was almost zero. I did and learnt at the same time. The training I joined improves my ability to run the school. I understood more about my duty and responsibility,” he said.

The lessons he learnt cover various school management topics ranging from: planning and regulation; policies to motivate students and teachers; and communication with parents and communities.

“I learnt how to do lesson planning, for example. It makes it easier to check and improve my teachers’ teaching plans,” he said.

He also built a network with parents to update them about regulations and their children’s performance and at the same time get their input on school improvements. They meet at least twice a year and with the contact made, they are always in touch.

One of the positive results from this parent-teacher liaison is the school’s provision of extra classes for students that needed additional tuition a month before their final exam. There was a concern from both teachers and parents that some students were not ready and needed more support from the school.

The director has also set up a School Supporting Committee (SSC) in conjunction with the local authority and religious leaders to look at the school’s development needs. A district governor and a chief monk lead the committee and one of their roles is to raise funds for infrastructure development in the school.  

Sixty-one-year-old Suom Mao, chief of the SSC, noticed the director and teachers were highly committed and had a good plan to develop the school. This inspired him to join the SSC and support the teachers in their goal to deliver a better education for students.

He said: “The school has a reliable SSC, for example, to manage donations with transparency and fairness. We could be a good model to others in providing a trusted service to children and parents.”

The respected SSC has built up a good relationship and generates donations locally and abroad to improve the school environment. So far, several facilities have been constructed including learning rooms, libraries and gardens.

“[The] school environment is an important element to attract students. A beautiful one keeps them at the school. Compared to seven years ago, the school looks completely different,” Mr. An said.

Physics teacher Sangvat Suy agreed with his director as he observed how the school now looks fresh and clean with attractive green scenery and smart buildings. He said what impresses him the most is his director’s skill in bringing everyone together to work and achieve a common goal.

 “He listens and learns from teachers and builds the school’s internal spirit, unity and promotes mutual understanding without involving nepotism and disintegration. [He] works in groups and make decisions collectively based on everyone’s input,” he said.

Positive changes at the school have made Mr. An and Puok High School renowned among other schools nationwide. In 2014, he received the ‘Model High School Award’ from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

His students have also achieved higher than average results. In 2015, two of them received grade A in the national high school exam – the highest possible in the national education system.

Witnessing all the improvements at his school, Mr. An is a firm believer in the practical knowledge he has gained from the CDPF and he is passionate to learn more and continue the impressive progress in raising educational standards.

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