Cambodian school adopting Japanese method enjoys popularity

A private school in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh adopting Japanese-style teaching in music, painting and other subjects is enjoying high popularity.

The school’s principal, 60-year-old Yasuo Anzai, was an assistant principal at a junior high school in Saitama Prefecture before going to Cambodia, leaving his family behind in the city of Saitama eight years ago.

In Cambodia which has been struggling to overcome the legacy of the terror reigned Pol Pot era, he said, ”I’d like to help children who will create a new era.”

In December, ”Edelweiss,” a song from the musical ”The Sound of Music,” echoed in downtown Cambodia where barrack cabins and tenements are lined up. Several children played keyed harmonicas in front of the ”Bamboo and Wind School,” about 4.5 kilometers southwest of the Royal Palace.

”In this country, music education materials for children are very limited. I’m teaching them painting and music to brush up their sensitivity,” Anzai said.

Painting and music are rarely taught in elementary school in Cambodia.

His school offers morning, afternoon and night classes, and some 100 children aged 5 to 18 are attending. With six local teachers in their teens through 20s, the school is teaching how to read and write Khmer, the official Cambodian language, and mathematics, and instructing music and painting. They also teach some selected students Japanese and English.

To help them gain a better understanding of life and ethics, the school has also adopted Japanese-style teaching, such as radio gymnastics and evaluation meetings after lessons.

”It’s enjoyable to be able to study things different from Cambodian schools,” a 9-year-old boy said. ”The school has become a bit of a popular school (in Cambodia).”

The school collects $3 a month per child from their parents to pay for utilities. The amount is much smaller than tuition at other public schools and support from his former school colleagues in Japan covers the shortfall caused by educational material expenses and salaries for teachers.

Supporters also include Rotary clubs in Shibata, Niigata Prefecture, and Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture.

Anzai said, ”Education is indispensable for the development of a country. I’d like to work hard as if I were still young.”

He taught social studies at junior high schools in Saitama Prefecture and other locations for about 30 years and also assumed the post of deputy principal. Impressed by Cambodia children during his trip to the country in 1998, he came to Cambodia after his retirement.

In Cambodia, the memories of the Indochina War and massacres are still intact. ”The country is a small country tormented by wars and the big powers. It has kept my attention ever since the Vietnam War,” he said.

”Although Cambodian industry is still lagging behind, graduates from our school will take on various professions in the future,” he said, adding his school will start computer classes.

Source: Khmerization

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Dara Saoyuth

Coming from a simple family in Kampot province of Cambodia, I’ve spent most part of my teenage years in learning and working. Through those experiences, I’ve built myself up from the ground and finally, become an entrepreneur running a media production company with my co-founder.

I believe that no matter situation or position we are in, we can be great at what we are doing and get what we want when we put our heart and soul into that.