The Importance of Early Childhood Education For Cambodian Kids

Students with their teacher at a CCT pre-school

Creating safe and healthy environments for preschool-aged children to thrive is an important part of CCT’s holistic Village Hive model. CCT’s Youth Centre Preschool Program ensures young children can access their basic needs while living at home with their families. 

Why Is Early Childhood Education Beneficial?

The foundations of brain architecture are constructed early in life. Chronic, unrelenting stress in early childhood can be toxic for the developing brain. Access to quality early childhood education programs support healthy development and subsequently enable children to break free from the cycle of poverty.

The role of CCT’s Youth Centre Preschool Program is to reduce sources of chronic stress in the lives of children and families. Children who grow up in environments characterised by poverty, malnourishment or ill health are exposed to levels of chronic toxic stress that can significantly change the way in which their brain architecture develops.

CCT’s programs provide a regular respite from this stress and an opportunity to play and learn in a positive and supportive environment. The kinds of activities that CCT focuses on, including structured, supported learning, playfulness and creativity provide an opportunity to change the damaging effects of growing up in a toxic stress environment. 

Research shows that children who receive quality education before the age of 5 are: Less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to be identified as having special needs, more prepared academically for later grades, more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to be higher earners in the workforce.

National Education Association

CCT’s Youth Centre Preschool Program

CCT adopted preschools into its youth centre model in 2013 after identifying a major barrier for children attending public school. Older siblings often had to stay home during the day and care for their siblings while their parents were working. This led to high rates of school dropout, irregular school attendance and the inability for older siblings to attend the youth centre. On top of this, CCT noticed that single parents who needed to work during the day had no one to look after their young children. Introducing a daycare service meant parents could go to work in the day and generate income to support their family. By encouraging older and younger siblings to access vital support services in their communities, development, school attendance and future learning outcomes improved.

How it works

Social workers in CCT’s Village Hive, assist families to develop realistic and sustainable plans to overcome the challenges in their lives and ensure the ongoing safety and wellbeing of the children. If a child is experiencing adversity and cannot access their basic needs at home, CCT social workers work together with the primary caregivers to decide whether it’s in the child’s best interests to enrol in the youth centre or preschool.  

While CCT social workers work together with the family to solve complex problems, CCT’s early childhood educators focus on creating safe, positive learning environments that support mental and physical development for the children. Opportunities to build strong cognitive, social and motor skills are created through regular play, socialisation, exercise, education and games. 

After a child is enrolled in CCT’s Youth Centre Preschool Program, a CCT staff member and the child’s primary caregiver work together to enrol the child into public preschool. Accessing public preschool ensures young children have the best possible start on their educational journey and the same opportunities made available to their peers. CCT provides the child with their public preschool uniforms, bags, shoes, books and makes sure they arrive at public preschool safely each day.

“Children who benefit from quality, equitable, and inclusive early education are better prepared for primary school and will reach better education outcomes.”

Global Partnership for Education

More than education

Children in CCT’s preschool can access high-quality nutritious meals, clean water, hygiene and sanitation facilities, social workers and nurses six days a week. The preschool program also responds to high rates of childhood malnutrition, stunting, and impaired development in Cambodia. The children are given a “anti-stunting” snack, a fortified peanut butter supplement created by CCT nurses, which addresses and prevents malnutrition. CCT nurses closely monitor the development of the preschool children and visit them daily at preschool. 

CCT social workers and families work together with the joint goal of the family becoming self-sufficient. Supporting families to identify their own problems, find their own solutions and resolve complex social issues takes time. Although it’s not always possible, the youth centre and preschool program is designed to be a temporary solution while CCT supports vulnerable families to move towards their goals. These programs ensure no day goes by without a child accessing their basic needs. 

CCT’s Youth Centre Preschool Program In Action – Lee Hour’s Story

Lee Hour, 5, lives with her mum, Chenda. Chenda is a working, single mum with no family or support system in Battambang. When CCT met the family, Chenda was working at a nearby hotel. When she went to work, she had no choice but to leave Lee Hour at home, alone and unsupervised.

CCT social workers agreed with Chenda to enrol Lee Hour into CCT’s Youth Centre Preschool Program. Enrolling Lee Hour into preschool meant she was safe, supervised and eating enough during the day. CCT social workers then worked with Chenda to help her find a new, stable job.

Lee Hour displays symptoms that are indicative of foetal alcohol syndrome, which is likely to have caused her learning and speaking difficulties. CCT nurses helped Lee Hour access medical care at a specialist hospital in Siem Reap. They now work closely with her to provide her with the extra nutritional and medical support she needs at preschool and at home.

Enrolling Lee Hour in CCT’s Youth Centre Preschool Program means she now has a group of supportive adults around her who are invested in her ongoing health, safety and wellbeing. Chenda now has support to care for Lee Hour while she’s at work and can focus on generating further income for their future.

You Can Help Cambodian Children Like Lee Hour H2

Through the help of our generous donors, CCT continues to expand its youth centre preschool program to assist more and more vulnerable children to achieve healthy, happy childhoods. It is through education programs like these that CCT brings about long-term and lasting change to Cambodian communities. When the right support is given to families and the community networks that surround them, a whole world of opportunity opens and children are able to thrive.