Only 34.4% of Cambodia’s poorest students actually continue onto the sixth grade. Many leave school to work and support their families. They fall so far behind that it feels impossible for them to catch up.

Other challenges include: Parents who are uneducated themselves do not see the value of educating their own children. Many families move around a lot for work and this disrupts their children’s schooling. Class sizes are large, especially in the primary grades.

The quality and attitude of public school teachers is often poor. Children are not learning in class. Most of the time children just get passed along to the next grade level. Cambodia’s public school teachers are not paid a living wage and it is common for many teachers to demand special payments from children. Families that cannot afford to pay the informal fees keep their kids at home. In some cases, Vietnamese children can face harsh discrimination by teachers, which affects their ability to learn and leads some parents to remove their children from school rather than have them face the abuse.

Established in 2011, the village development schools are Asian Hope’s answer to fulfilling its mission of changing the future of vulnerable children in Cambodia for Christ. This program is free to children who have not been able to attend school at all or have fallen behind. This vital program helps the children catch up to their grade level so that they can complete their education. The majority of the children attend both the village development schools and regular school.

Roughly 12% of village development school students do not attend regular school. Around half of these students will likely never attend regular school because they are already 12-years-old and have never been to school. For these children, the village development School is their only access to an education.