Inequality of education and opportunity between rural and urban youth
The motivating force behind everything we do at 40K is our commitment to bridging the rural-urban divide in developing country contexts.
In rural and remote areas across the developing world, communities are typically characterised by entrenched poverty, substandard education quality and inadequate telecommunications infrastructure. Household incomes are low and irregular, and families depend primarily on vulnerable and subsistence livelihoods in under-regulated, low-growth industries— industries that are highly susceptible to natural resource degradation and changes in rainfall and weather patterns, such as food crop farming.
With urban salaries significantly higher than rural salaries, many rural school leavers aspire to employment in higher-paying work in higher-growth and high-demand sectors in the cities, major towns and tourists resorts in their home country.
Most will have have left school without even the most basic English language or digital skills. Yet, it is these skills that are increasingly required or, at the very least, advantageous in gaining the kind of secure work (and the level of income) that will allow them to achieve upward social mobility.
Instead, their best hope is to find casual or seasonal work on the poorly paid, under-regulated fringes of the farming, manufacturing and informal economies— the kind of work that confines them and their families to a life of interminable poverty.
That’s why we believe it is important to make English literacy skills education and digital learning more accessible for children in low-resource environments. Not only does this open doors to economic opportunities and change, but in a world transformed by digital technologies and dominated in many ways by the English language, it allows children in non-English speaking countries across the developing world to be better informed and have greater control over their lives and future.
The problem in Cambodia
English language skills significantly increase the employability, earning potential and job security of Cambodian school leavers. But, for children in impoverished rural communities, there are many barriers to accessing quality English literacy education in and outside of schools.
Rural schools struggle to attract qualified English teachers, so the standard of in-school English education is very low. At the same time, most children are unable to access alternative solutions, including costly commercial language schools, after-school tuition and online English lessons.
Low internet connectivity
Despite recent progress in improving internet connectivity across Cambodia, one in four rural households remain disconnected (GSMA 2020). Even for those who who do have internet access, connections are often unstable and slow.
Low household incomes
The average household income in Cambodia is US$1,549 per annum or around US$4 a day (CEIC 2019). Given the significant gap in rural-urban wages, the average household income is rural areas is much less than this.
High labour participation
Up to 59% of rural school students in Cambodia are engaged in paid employment outside school hours to contribute to household incomes (KAPE 2014). Many more are engaged in unpaid domestic or agricultural labour.
Increase in earning potential
English language competency roughly doubles the earning potential of Cambodian employees, regardless of educational attainment. That’s the difference between a life of poverty and a stable economic future