Enhancing Research Capacity
Goals 3 and 4 are intended to build an enhanced capability for educational research in Cambodia. An important outcome of the methodology described above will be the significant insights derived from the field work. This research proposes a methodological approach that has wider implications than the specific question being addressed. The analysis of data from the three components (observations, interviews and profiles) will inform more than just the design of the professional identity framework. Insights from this work will be made available to the widest possible extent (reports, seminars and academic publications) to enable other research to be conducted and evidence-based policies to be considered. The work will go some way to address the dearth of scholarship on what’s actually happening in Cambodian schools. For sure, the method will be refined and improved as the project develops as all the while we will learn about how to investigate and understand the problems of education in Cambodia.
An important feature of this research project will be the Research Methods Seminar and Research Seminar on early Findings that will take place in DoPo and PTEC respectively. The PI will make at least two visits to Cambodia to coincide with the teacher workshops (in Q2, 2023 and Q2, 2024). The alliance will also use these opportunities to convene seminars on educational research methods for staff in DoPo and SeeBeyondBorders and other stakeholders. These seminars will ensure continued collaboration and knowledge between the partner organisations.
In addition, the participant teachers will be exposed to techniques such as classroom-based action research through their involvement in this project. Although the MoEYS has significantly encouraged teachers to carry out action research as part of their teaching and learning through policy and strategic documents, teachers in Cambodia are reluctant to engage in action research and lackthe skills for this purpose. DoPo recently developed an action research guidebook and this will used for the action research capacity building to teachers, school directors and other educational officials.
In its Research Strategy 2015-2019 Irish Aid commits to working “with our research partners to ensure that research findings are presented credibly and in ways that policy makers and practitioners can easily understand and use.” All stakeholders involved in this research share this commitment and will work towards effectively disseminating results and findings to influence policy and practice in Cambodia and among development partners in Cambodia and Ireland.
The Department of Policy will:
- Present findings to MoEYS leaders/Minister and technical departments in the form of a bespoke forum and/or meeting.
- Write a research findings brief to instruct and inform future policy and the implementation of Continuous Professional Development Framework and Teacher Career Pathway Framework.
- Write and publish a journal article in the Cambodian Educational Review (CER) and an international journal. This journal is a bilingual MoEYS publication.
- Present key findings to the Joint Technical working group which comprises Ministry Officials and the Educational Support Working Group.
- Present key findings in Annual Education Congress.
- Use the research findings to inform its future programming
- Create collateral associated with effective promotion on internal channels including its website social media channels and email mailing lists.
- Utilise its media and journalistic contacts to garner effective publicity for the research on major external Cambodia and Irish platforms.
- Liaise with partners in the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation to assess the feasibility of presenting the research at the INTO Educational Conference in 2024. The INTO is a longstanding supporter of SeeBeyondBorders
- Liaise with contacts in the Cambodia Ireland Changemaker Network to create a series of webinars on the research
- Approach partners in the Development Studies Association of Ireland (DSAI) to assess feasibility of a presentation at a DSAI Conference
Phnom Penh Teacher Education College:
- The participation of PTEC into the research will bring about the change of its teacher education curriculum and the research capacity building for PTEC.
- The teacher professional identity framework will inform teacher education curriculum at TEC so that it is suitable, important, and related to daily work and life of the teacher students. Underpinned by the teacher professional identity framework, the teacher education curriculum at Phnom Penh TEC will be fit and relevant with the level, lives and future of teacher students which will lead to the quality of teaching in the future classroom.
- The research insights will benefit PTEC in its teacher education programs, teacher educators and teacher students as follows:
- The research findings will inform the teacher education curricula (primary and lower secondary teacher education program) at PTEC.
- The research insights will inform PTEC management teams and teacher educators to make evidence-based decisions on how to implement the curricula and support student teachers more effectively.
- Student teachers will be more aware of their professional identity to become effective teachers before they are assigned to work as school teachers at designated primary or lower secondary schools.
Centre for Education and Lifelong Learning, NCI will:
- Host an interim and final seminar on The Challenges of Education in Cambodia and invite a wide selection of the Irish education community to be more aware of the challenges of education in Cambodia
- Write papers for journals such as the International Journal of Educational Development and Irish Educational Studies, Schools Studies in Education etc.
- Continue in collaboration between DoPo and SeeBeyondBordes and PTEC to encourage other colleagues and students to become more involved in addressing the education challenges in Cambodia
- Participate at conferences and events to highlight the results from this research
- Develop further proposals to fund future research in this space
Policy Impact and Building Capacity for the Department of Policy
The direct participation of DoPo in this research means that learnings generated can feed directly into policy decision making. The developing relationship between SeeBeyondBorders and the Ministry, culminating in the recently completed MoA, also provides a strong policy context, and augurs well for the prospects of dissemination of research results at the highest levels. A key Department of Foreign Affairs evaluation criterion is the potential of the research to support enhanced research capacity in partner countries. This will be achieved directly through the engagement of researchers as part of the project team placed within DoPo. Critically, it will also catalyse the ability of the Irish Principal Investigator, in collaboration with SeeBeyondBorders, to offer practical research training for young policy staff within the DoPo team.
The research project will also inform the implementation of recent Continuous Professional Development Frameworks (CPD) adopted in 2019 and a teacher career pathway policy (TCP) adopted in January 2021. The CPD framework creates the accredited CPD system underpinned by the Teacher Professional Standard and Teacher Career Pathway Policy. The teacher capability framework and materials produced at the end of the project will inform the CPD content, structure, and process for producing effective teachers in Cambodia. The TCP comprising teaching, management, and specialist tracks and CPD will be piloted in early 2022.
Future Research Opportunities
Research and evidence are playing a larger role in underpinning and validating international development programmes sponsored by Governments and funding institutions. In A Better World, Irish Aid asserts that “situating research and evidence centrally within our planning and reporting will create clearer links between knowledge generation and our programming”. This study will provide valuable evidence and insights to inform the Irish Aid regional strategy. By providing evidence of effective practice in teaching and learning in schools, this project promises to provide guidance to in-country aid investment choices. By engaging strongly with teachers as researchers and reflective practitioners, it offers the prospect of practical applied results in real world settings.
This is in line the A Better World’s objective that research “be inclusive of the dual concepts of generating new knowledge as well as applying both new and existing knowledge to practical problem solving and planning”. More broadly, there is a relatively low level of research into education policy and practice in Cambodia, which undoubtedly acts as a brake on attracting international funding opportunities from established programmes. Completion of high quality research projects such as this will serve to attract interest resulting from availability of evidence upon which to base funding decisions. This would include targeting opportunities under the Horizon Europe (2021-2027) Framework Programme and Erasmus+, including attraction of doctoral and post-doctoral scholars to study and research at Irish Universities and colleges.
Opportunities of funding can also be targeted from Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to support developing countries on system capacity transformation (the MoEYS is working on the submission of an application on education system capacity transformation to GPE).
Finally, the fifth budget support programme EU-Cambodia Education Sector Reform Partnership (ESRP) 2018-2021 aims to support the Government of Cambodia financially and technically in the implementation of its Education Strategic Plans (ESP). This project will help to shape investment decisions to be better informed by ‘what works’ based on practitioner knowledge and rigorous research.
Wider Implications of Findings
The outcomes of this project will have wider implications and insights that will contribute to understanding the pedagogy of teacher development. In particular, the connection between teacher professional identity and development of education systems. To quote a DoPo Concept Paper “Ineffective education policy interventions may be due to a lack of in-depth analysis at the grassroots level to develop interventions in response to its specific problems. Although there are good education policies at the national and local levels, it is not possible to interpret policies for classroom practice.”
The challenge of getting to the roots of classroom practice improvement is faced by many developing countries. It is not unique to Cambodia. Furthermore, newer approaches to the role of the teacher in post conflict situations such as, trauma-informed pedagogy may benefit from the professional identity framework developed as part of this study.
This project is funded by the Irish Research Council.
Concept Paper Establishing effective school support interventions towards improving student learning outcomes (DoPo 2021)
 Overstreet, S., Chafouleas, S.M. Trauma-Informed Schools: Introduction to the Special Issue. School Mental Health 8, 1–6 (2016).