CIES Presentation Brehm-Silova: The hidden privatization of public education in Cambodia

William Brehm and Iveta Silova have kindly sent me the abstract for their presentation.

Monday, May 2: Session 99. 8:30-10h, Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Floor C – Saguenay


The contemporary practice of private tutoring in Cambodia is a complex phenomenon. Since government school lasts only four hours/day and primary teachers earn about $44/month, it is impossible for students to receive the full national curriculum (longer than the actual school day) and for teachers to earn a livable wage without conducting private tutoring. What results is a system where teachers charge students to learn the remaining curriculum after school hours, often times inside government school buildings. In addition, students can hire a teacher for individual tutoring (called “extra special tutoring”), which takes place in the student’s house, or students can attend private tutoring lessons offered in another government school.

Although Cambodian private tutoring has recently been linked explicitly to educational inequity (Bray, 2005) and teacher corruption (Dawson, 2009), the system is far more complex and historically rooted than observers are likely to recognize at first glance. Notwithstanding the cost barriers or lack of governance, private tutoring functions in a Foucauldian sense to order society along traditional hierarchical lines as a mechanism to cope with the five decades of rapid and often conflicting geopolitical transitions (see Silova, 2009 for examples of private tutoring as a mechanism of coping for rapid transition in Central Asia). In this presentation, we will argue that the modernity project in Cambodia (with all of its rhetoric of education access and equity) has been no more than a carefully appropriated façade, concealing the real system of education that rests on notions of hierarchy, inequality, and absolutism—ideas traditionally associated with Cambodia since the rule of God-King Jayavarman II (Mannikka, 1996)—ordering society into the people who have (neak mean) and people who do not (neak kro). The aim of this presentation is therefore to situate the emergence of the system of private tutoring within the Cambodian context and then to explore how it, together with the modern institution of education, (re)orders society along traditional lines of power and hierarchy.

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