Technical education or vocational education and training (VET) is considered a key action for the development of Cambodia and its social and economical reconstructions after decades of conflicts. The Cambodian Education Law includes technical and vocational training education and training at all levels (public and private) inside the whole educational system in the country. There are three levels of education: primary, secondary and high education, and two types: general knowledge and technical and vocational training (see Art. 8.)
DBFC has developed its works around VET for one reason: the post-war period and the time of economical and social reconstruction of Cambodia after the 1990’s. When Don Bosco began its activities of education in the Khmer refugee camps in Thailand (1980’s), young people and children were out of an education system, while in Cambodia schools were destroyed, teachers were killed or they fled the country. Male population went down. For example, in 1998 it was of 51.8 %, but in that same year the 42.8 % of the national population was under 14 years old, according to World Food Program (2010). There was the urgent to prepare the youth in practical skills able to help in the recovery of their country.
From the different needs of Cambodia, DBFC chose technical education as a way to contribute in the formation of skillful personnel for the economical and social development of the country.
However, recovery during the post-war or post-conflict years of Cambodia (1987 – 1999), was marked by a gradual increase of social inequality. Poor communities were let behind the line of development.
According to the World Bank studies of Cambodian social inequality by 2004, for example, 64.6 of children belonging to poorest communities in the country, could access to primary, while 86.9 of richest children did. The big jump comes for lower secondary with 3.3 of poorest children attending and 1% reaching an upper secondary. [ref. Cambodian Economic Review, p.8]
The development period of Cambodia began with the opening of its economy in 1999 through foreign investment. Since then, the Cambodian economy experienced a positive growing only affected by the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.
The lack of skillful personnel was going to be an obstacle and the government invested also in the opening of polytechnics and vocational centers in which some Don Bosco past pupils of the technical schools would play a meaningful role in the implementation of training educative syllabus.
The mission of Don Bosco in vocational education and training is to prepare skillful personnel for jobs that are related with techniques and technologies for the Cambodian needs in development. The students come exclusively from the poorest communities of the country, because they have been excluded from the main streams of development. DBFC works in order to empowered poor communities in the stream of development, a situation that would have a positive impact of justice, equality and better living conditions.
The method of education in the Don Bosco schools in Cambodia is that of technical training. Theory has its important space as the introduction for the youth, but it has a big emphasis in technical practice and learning by doing. Classrooms in the different technical schools are made in a way that imitates real work environments, while promoting technical services in the workshops to give students and instructors the opportunity of practice and the benefit of some incomes for sustainability of the works.
The Don Bosco technical schools offer different programs for different levels of education of youth:
– Youth with 6th to 8th grades only can apply to schools such as agriculture, housekeeping, tailoring and culinary.
– Youth with 9th to 11th grades only can apply to front office, industrial mechanic, welding and automotive.
– Youth with 12th grade can apply to office administration (secretarial), social communication, electricity, electronics and art communication.
Students with 9th grade can applied to the Don Bosco schools because vocational training is considered upper education for them. In this case, the Royal Ministry of Education of Cambodia approved that students of Don Bosco with 9th grade are recognized as 12th graders and, therefore, are able to join superior education when they can.
Students that finished 12th grade and applied to Don Bosco are expected to get an associated degree. Don Bosco is negotiating this point with the Royal Ministry of Education and it has been approved partially, for example, in Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville.
Don Bosco puts a great emphasis in discipline as a way to get the attention of the youth and understand the importance of their formation. Sport, cultural events and human formation is also integrated in their daily activities. Cleanliness, order, punctuality, transparency, tolerance, honesty, initiative, creativity, love for science and knowledge are values of great importance in the Don Bosco school.