Literacy in Cambodia
Cambodia used to be one of the greatest nations in the world. Its land stretched far to the China’s border in the Eastern Asia. However, due to ruthless wars from one century to another, the country has lost its ideal and everything was ruined, including valuable books and documents. Up to now, after some years of peace, Cambodia hasn’t recovered yet, especially on the human resources. Of human resources, I would like to take literacy to discuss as the main topic here.
Education system has been being rebuilt in order to reach the acceptable international standard the world required. People have started enrolling in schools once again, and some of the new generations sure know how read and write very well. All seem so good. On the contrary, there appears to be some problems. Yes, people can know how to read and write, but they don’t like reading and writing. To be precise, but not to blame, they are lazy. Students studying at schools think reading as a task, what they have to do, not what they love to do. There aren’t many Khmer people who would spend their times to go buy books in the bookstores. That’s why not many books are sold, and that’s why Khmer books are sold at cheap prices whereas foreign books are sold at high prices. Because of this cut rate price, Khmer authors don’t willing to publish many more books. As a matter of fact, there isn’t even one bestseller in our own local market, let alone the international market. So you see, many Khmer people don’t think reading as pleasure. They barely have the reading habit at all!
Khmer people think that reading is a waste of time. To them, they prefer listening and watching TVs! Why? Because listening and watching are both easy, fast, and don’t take much of their time. They can gain the information quickly without having to read. Their opinion is partly right, I admit, but if we consider deep down into the matter, we will find that it is otherwise. Reading does help people far better than you could imagine. So what is the importance of reading?
As we all know, Khmer people like listening to people talking about illogical things or strange phenomenon and then pass those news on to the others. Soon the news spread out through the whole country to every corner. They really love talking about the untruth, and they even scold those well-educated ones who try to let them realize their mistakes. That’s another one of our bad Khmer characters: Never accepting that they are wrong. In addition to that, Khmer people like watching TVs. Yes, in western countries, TV is supposed to be one good source to teach people. Nevertheless, in Cambodia, all Khmer channels play only concerts, soap operas, and kinds of those cosmetic things. The educational programs are so rare that on some channels you can’t find even one. Consequently, what good do these things do to people? Practically nothing! Those programs just make the matter worse, for students spend most of their times in front of TVs instead of sitting at their desks studying.
That’s why I suggest reading. If you ask me, reading is indeed useful. First of all, books are written and divided into many categories. Some discuss about useful problems we face in our everybody lives, some talk about religious problems and some even explain about the supposed-to-be phenomenon most uneducated people think to be superstition or god’s work. Most importantly, reading can teach us about morals through short stories or animal stories in order to make us live a peaceful life with other people. These are not all the essences of reading, for reading is unlimited. If you spend the moment from the instant you were born to the last minute of your life reading, you still can’t finish all the books in the world. Therefore, reading is very very very vital. Please read!
On my point of view, I have some strategies so as to guide your ways to the improvement of your reading habits:
1. Set a goal. That’s right! Everyday you can choose an appropriate and quiet time to read for 15 minutes. You can decide to read anything such as magazines, novels, news, etc. that you think can provide you knowledge. After 15 minutes of reading, you can stop reading and do something else you like. As you get used to the fifteen minute reading, you can set the time up to 20 or 30 minutes a day. Soon you won’t have to limit your reading time, for it has already become your routine.
Attention: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself because reading is PLEASURE! If you’re not happy, don’t put too much stress on yourselves to read. Otherwise, you will soon give up reading. If you can’t reach the goal the first time, try again later. Just don’t give up!
2. Read children books for those who are poor at English and want to improve their reading skill. Some of you would think that’s absurd. That’s right, children books are books written for children, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t read them. You can start by reading simple children stories (don’t forget, think it as a pleasure!), and slowly your English will improve and once you find your reading level is as easy as reading books in your native language, you can move on to read more difficult levels. Don’t try to read books that you don’t understand almost every word. If you follow these steps, you will soon find out that reading English books aren’t as hard as you think, like a proverb that goes, “Everything doesn’t start from the top.”
3. Help your kids to read. For parents who want their children to love reading, my suggestion is that, like I said in Tip Number 1, you can limit the time for your kids to read if your kids don’t like reading. Fifteen minutes are suitable enough for them from the start point. However, you shouldn’t put too much pressure on them. You should try not to force them to read but try to convince them that reading is an entertainment, not a task that needs to be done. Meanwhile, if your kids’ reading habit improves, even a little, you folks should admire them and try to encourage them to read more. Children, like adults, need encouragement, not criticism.
4. And last but not least, I would like to propose the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport to consider opening as many local libraries as possible in the education areas, and please contain in the libraries with useful books which are all good resources for students as well as learners to do research.
My last statement and wish is not too much to ask for, I suppose. All I want is for all Cambodians to take reading as one part of their daily lives. It wouldn’t kill to like reading! And DO READ!