The overarching research goal

The overarching research goal

Reaching Furthest Behind First

The research will further the overarching goal of ‘A Better World, Ireland’s Policy for International Development’ which is for Ireland to ‘reach those furthest behind first.’ In a country where over 97% of all 15-year-olds fail to achieve a baseline level of competence in any of the key subjects, one can only describe the situation as a learning crisis. According to the most recent PISA-D results[6], Cambodia scored very significantly below the OECD and ASEAN averages in the three domains of reading, maths and science and in relation to more comparable countries only outperformed students in Zambia and Senegal. The findings of the report bring to light the lack of access to quality education in Cambodia and on a global level the vast discrepancy in international education standards.  

When the proportion of students who reach the baseline-level is expressed as a share of the total 15-year-old population…, only 2.1% of 15-year-olds in Cambodia can be said to reach a baseline level of performance in reading; 2.7% in mathematics; and 1.4% in science.[7]

The situation in early grades is not much better. According to the outcomes of the Early Grade Reading Assessment[8] published in 2017 by the Ministry “half of children in grades 1 and 2 cannot read a single word.” From an international perspective, these findings indicate that Cambodia clearly is a country with learners who are amongst those furthest behind. This is a significant drag on both the social and economic future of Cambodia, including its ambition to become a middle ranking country by 2030.  


Find out more about Cambodian National Development

Find out more about how this research addresses Gender Equality and Quality Education.  


This project is funded by the Irish Research Council.

Irish Research Council

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[6] MoEYS, Education in Cambodia: Findings from Cambodia’s Experience in Pisa for Development (Phnom Penh: 2018).

[7] MoEYS. p 28

[8] Amber Gove, and Anna Wetterberg, “The Early Grade Reading Assessment: Applications and Interventions to Improve Basic Literacy,”  (2011).