Change begins with education– a phrase coined by our current partner charity, SeeBeyondBorders, resonates deeply with us at Teacher Horizons. We care about shaping the world through education, which is why Teacher Horizons is so much more than just matching teachers with international teaching jobs. Our dedication towards enhancing quality education around the world means we don’t stop at elite private international schools. We connect with schools, institutions and organizations that are pioneering international education, whether they take the form of a “typical” international school or not. 

From a village in Cambodia to a bustling metropolis like Tokyo we are always matching great teachers in all parts of the world with a shared aim for quality and improvement in education, beyond a purely corporate setting. As our CEO Alex emphasises about Teacher Horizons: ‘It’s a free platform – developed by teachers – for teachers to explore all kinds of teaching opportunities around the world.’

With our commitment to quality education around the world, we are proud of the inspiring educational initiatives we work with. We work with leading socially-focused schools, inspiring change-makers and organisations that are fighting to improve education in their countries and the world. We have done this by placing top-quality teachers in these schools or initiatives. Tea Leaf Fund, Life School Guatemala and ALA are a few examples. Today is all about our latest charity partnership. Read on to learn more about them, our shared values and all the amazing work they are doing in Cambodia. 

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We support educational charities to reach their educational goals. 

We donate 10% of our annual profits to a charity each year. This last year we have been supporting SeeBeyondBorders– an award-winning NGO focused on improving education for children by training teachers in Cambodia and creating systemic change. With both parties agreeing that change begins with education, it was a great match and a seamless partnership. It was an inspiring chat with Sarah Reynolds, UK Country Manager, and clear that they are making strides in moving education within Cambodia forward. 

SeeBeyondBorders & Teacher Horizons: A partnership based on shared values in education. 

SeeBeyondBorders values

SeeBeyondBorders and Teacher Horizons partnership came about through a meeting with our Operation Director, Emily in Siem Reap. It’s a wonderful partnership as Teacher Horizons helps in the search of jobs for international teachers and SeeBeyondBorders supports teachers in Cambodia working in public schools. 

The funding from Teacher Horizons has gone into the SeeBeyondBorders “unrestricted funds” pot and goes towards staff costs and operations which Sarah states “is so valuable, you can’t run a charity without being able to have staff, so this supports us in doing what we set out to do.”   We are delighted to support SeeBeyondBorders as they support teachers in Cambodia. 

  1. Quality teaching & quality schools.

SeeBeyondBorders work in 2 provinces in Cambodia and their main focus has been on improving maths and literacy. Through their signature Quality Teaching Program they run workshops and mentor and support teachers in Cambodia.  SeeBeyondBorders worked with over 80 schools and 500 teachers last year. This year, due to the impact of COVID-19, this is scaled back and they will be working with one rural district outside of Battambang, Cambodia. This will enable costs to remain manageable and programs to go ahead effectively.  They will work with 27 schools and around 200 teachers moving into 2021. 

Cambodia continues to battle with drastic school drop-out rates. The mean years of schooling in Cambodia is just 4.8 years. There are many initiatives that exist now to try and rectify this. It’s a challenge though because monitoring and getting accurate data is difficult.  Especially now, the World Bank has voiced concerns that the dropout rates will be increasing significantly post-Covid times.  SeeBeyondBorders is realistic to the challenges and where their strengths lie– which is in supporting teachers:

“We take a community approach and believe in engaging with the communities, supporting and speaking with parents and overall working to improve the dialogue around the importance of education.”  

  1. Transparency & Simplicity 

As well as many of our values around education being aligned we also share an affinity for transparency. SeeBeyondBorders produce an annual transparency report and in their donor reports they share their ‘lessons learnt’, a space where all their challenges and obstacles are outlined- ‘warts and all’. They believe it is very important to be clear on what is working and not working, but of course it is a delicate dance with not offending governments etc. It requires reflection and commitment to growth. 

Their lessons learnt reporting- a crucial element of their work also impacts the teachers in Cambodia that they work with and their Cambodian staff. Sarah explained that while usually admitting to any failure is seen as ‘losing face’, lessons learnt prompt a new confidence in honesty and transparency without any loss of face. SeeBeyondBorders staff would often volunteer at a staff meeting that “we have a lessons learnt”. 

  1. Moving beyond tradition. 

Cambodia’s education system is based on rote learning. It is challenging to move beyond this when many still accept this as a regular teaching method. SeeBeyondBorders recognises that this needs to change for proper learning to occur and remain. It’s not their role to go and teach students but instead, SeeBeyondBorders focuses on training Cambodian teachers. By starting with teachers, they support them in teaching styles that move beyond chanting 1+1=2. By breaking down the concepts they can pass this to students and with time effective teaching methods will become the norm. 

Moving beyond rote learning and breaking down the ‘learning crisis’ 

It was surprising to learn that Cambodia’s learning crisis still exists. While Cambodia has come a long way since the Khmer Rouge Days, last year it was alarmingly reported that only  3% of 15year olds have minimum proficiency learning levels in literacy and maths.  SeeBeyondBorders believe through effective teaching methods and capable teachers this can change. There are some great changes happening already, for example the Ministry of Education is now creating a Bachelors of Education, a 4 year program that exists in other parts of the globe but hasn’t existed in Cambodia before. This is progress. As Sarah, put so succinctly: ‘the problem is not lack of schools, it is what happens in the schools.’

  1. A Systemic approach to change.

Cambodia is inundated with charity organizations especially focused in poor areas around education. The problem with this is that when the external project leaves, more often than not, the problems reappear. That’s why a systemic approach is needed. SeeBeyondBorders does just as their name prompts: not only do they see beyond the short term, they also see beyond short term, external hand-outs. Their projects work directly with school principals and local teachers and they work closely with the Ministry of Education. More than just rolling out a training program, they are focused on systemic change. They work tirelessly on influencing the Government to promote reforms around education. They do this with a focus on local leadership and longstanding commitment to delivering quality education. 

Building leaders of tomorrow

Working closely with the Ministry of Education also resulted in them sending 3 members of  the Ministry of Education on an educational exchange to Ireland. The trip helped open their eyes to how learning can be in other places. Sarah described them as ‘Real go-getters’ explaining how one member of the policy department is now moving forward with a partnership on education policy. These types of collaborations build leaders of tomorrow and shape the future of education in Cambodia. 

SeeBeyondBorders have also created a new project called Educational Leaders, supporting 10 graduates with excellence in education. They  held a Teachers Inspire event which recognises and celebrates teachers and held a ceremony for it in Siem Reap where they invited 12 teachers and school leaders and provided them with certificates of appreciation for the groundbreaking work they do. This gathered local TV press coverage and helped highlight the pivotal role education and educators play in Cambodia.

  1. Future thinking & moving beyond resistance 

SeeBeyondBorders teach without borders. They are bigger picture thinking, they are not concerned with quick fixes. They see where the world of education is moving and is right there in supporting Cambodia to be there with it.  Naturally, there remains some resistance to change within the Ministry. Young and upcoming people in the ministry want to push for change and it is evident. 

Working with principals of schools also enables them to shift away from resistance. “What we are trying to do is coach the principals in how to become a mentor. We catch up with them and go observe them to see how they are doing. Peer to Peer level was hard to imbed, due to cultural and hierarchical tendencies.”  The bedrock of sustainability is that the mentors understand and can continue to support teachers. 

Technology and Blended-Learning 

Is Blended learning the future for international schools? Pop over to our recent post to see what we think. 

A focus for the coming years is technology. The reality is – especially as we have woken up to Covid times, that more and more learning is moving online. Schools in Cambodia are starting to go back now with some new restrictions. Teachers and schools are offering blended learning but of course this excludes a considerable amount of students who still don’t have access to a television or the internet.  Sarah shared with us:  “During Covid months SeeBeyondBorders initially created videos online but we have refocused as it is the teachers are our priority. So we have created online teaching resources so they can go out and teach in their communities, if it’s in their village under a tree or in the classroom. All these materials will be available for teachers as accessible resources going forward” 

What does the future hold for SeeBeyondBorders? 

TeacherHorizons continues to support the work SeeBeyondBorders is  doing. Sarah shared the following focus areas for the future and we are excited to follow along. You can do the same via their website and even contribute and support their programs.

  1. Technology is a big focus for us so we are going to trial providing teachers with tablets to improve their teaching. We have already experimented with Google Classroom so this way they can load up some resources and put it to practice. We are in the stages of monitoring if this can be used depending on the technology use and then hopefully roll it out further. 
  1. We proved that by improving teaching in Maths, learning outcomes for children are transformed so Literacy is next. We are collecting evidence it is working now and we have already been blown away with seeing young learners excel beyond rote learning. 

A big thank you to Sarah at SeeBeyondBorders for chatting with us.

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