With digital education implemented via various platforms, this article focuses on digital education in New Generation Schools, as governed by the Policy and Strategy on Information and Communication Technology in Education and the Policy on New Generation Schools. The qualities needed by school directors, principals and teachers at New Generation Schools are also explained.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) in 2018 established the “Policy and Strategy on Information and Communication Technology in Education” with two main goals.

The first is to adopt new management and administrative processes to modernise practices and increase the efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of education sector governance and performance monitoring.

The second is to integrate information and communications technology (ICT) as a teaching, learning and knowledge sharing tool across the education sector to equip students with the ICT knowledge and skills needed to transition to the 21st century world of work.

The strategy is structured around five key operational areas: (i) infrastructure, connectivity and equipment; (ii) governance and management; (iii) finance to support ICT in education; (iv) ICT resources for teaching and learning; and (v) human resource development.

An important component of education reform in Cambodia has been the creation of New Generation Schools for improving student achievement, with a focus on providing quality education and schools for the future.

The establishment of New Generation Schools is a continuation of the Child Friendly School development efforts following the pattern of practices in other countries, whereby certain public schools have gained a large degree of autonomy from the government to promote educational innovation.

As a first phase, the Ministry of Education established 11 New Generation Schools to test systematic education reform.

MoEYS sees equipping students with hard and soft skills – particularly regarding new initiatives, critical thinking and problem solving – as essential to improvements in the quality of education.

The Ministry then selected 100 more schools with which to establish Model Schools, which the ministry is implementing under “Effective School Management” as part of the Secondary Education Improvement Project. The Ministry has also turned 50 resource schools into “Model Schools”.

The goal of MoEYS is to create “Smart Schools” for the digital age.

To ensure the efficiency of the operations and functioning of the New Generation Schools, MoEYS in 2018 developed the “Policy on New Generation Schools”, in which a number of strategies have been put in place to respond to the demands of the digital age.

These include operational autonomy linked with innovation focusing on modifying the curriculum, using technology to increase educational efficiency, such as electronic lesson plans and m-Learning, among others, and other forms of educational innovation, as well as putting in place provisions for operational autonomy that will be contingent on the evidence of innovation.

Another strategy is the “Intensive Use of Technology to Drive Innovation”, which refers to the use of technology as a key element in New Generation Schools, which not only includes access to hardware, but also student usage of new educational software that will enhance teaching, learning and assessment.

A third is modernising learning environments by using innovative new designs in educational architecture to transform classrooms and other school facilities to align with the standards needed in the 21st century.

It should also be noted that the pedagogical system of the New Generation Schools consists of seven main components: (i) governance; (ii) new teaching methods; (iii) technology; (iv) pedagogical counselling systems in schools; (v) classroom organisation and materials; (vi) community vocational education; and (vii) libraries suitable for the 21st century.

However, there cannot be “Smart School” and “Smart Teachers” without “Smart Principals”.

MoEYS is creating ‘Smart Schools’ for the digital age. SUPPLIED

Speaking at last year’s Teachers’ Day on October 5 at the National Institute of Education, HE Dr Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, highlighted the requirements for school principals in the digital age.

These include strengths in communications, public relations and branding; ensuring high student engagement in learning; continued professional growth and development; the ability to re-envision learning spaces and the teaching environment; and opportunity.

“Teachers play an important role in implementing education reform. Education reform focuses on building the knowledge, skills and competencies of teachers.

“Learning and teaching is an interactive process between teachers and students that occurs in the context of a quality school and a favourable family-social environment leading to the achievement of studies and becoming a model citizen.

“In the digital age, teachers must have five main attributes: strong comprehensive knowledge, including of foreign languages; professional skills; regular professional development to further gain experience; professional ethics; and digital skills in technology,” Chuon Naron said.

Digital education is supported by the Policy and Strategy on Information and Communication Technology in Education and the Policy on New Generation School, and is embedded in the Ministry of Education’s Education Strategic Plan 2019-2023.

Implementing digital education via New Generation Schools requires the contribution of school directors, principals and teachers equipped with the aforementioned qualities.