Through a series of workshops in the fall, we’ve focused intensely on training Battambang’s public school kindergarten teachers on integrating arts in the education of young children. 

The first workshop took place back in September, where we hosted kindergarten teachers from all the public schools in Battambang for an initial workshop on integrating the arts into the mandated curriculum. The workshop was based on the methods we employ in our own kindergarten program: a program that every year takes in 170 students aged 3 to 5 from the surrounding community, and that is recognized by both the local government and the community for its safe and caring learning environment and quality arts-based curriculum.

After attending the workshops, the participants left with an understanding of – as one participant stated – how “incorporating art into the curriculum can help children think flexibly, gain knowledge quickly, and learn about Khmer art and their heritage.”

Combining circus arts and science. Photo: Stefano Morrone
Since September, Phare’s Education Manager Phang Nhary has been visiting the participating schools to see how they are implementing the arts into their classes. In December, the teachers returned for a follow-up workshop, participating in a round-table discussion with Phare teachers, our Arts Education Specialist, and representatives from the Department of Education.

Topics included how to fully integrate the arts into each classroom subject, management of the classroom using positive discipline, and finding ways to use technology when teachers and students have limited access to financial and technological resources.  

“Phare’s bigger vision is to truly realize the power of arts in providing a holistic, all-rounded education, which is critical to addressing educational inequality. Education through the arts is known to help students from stagnant social mobility backgrounds and marginalized communities close the achievement gap.” –Osman Khawaja, Executive Director

How We Do Arts Integration at Phare Ponleu Selpak

The methods we’re teaching are backed by science: research shows that the arts in schools improve test scores, increase graduation rates, decrease discipline infractions, and improve the likelihood that students will attend university after graduation. Our methods are also backed by our own experiences: throughout the last two years, our kindergarten has taken significant steps to further incorporate arts education in the classroom teaching.   

Integrating science with arts and movement by making shapes with the body. Photo: Stefano Morrone
“Here at Phare Ponleu Selpak, we believe strongly in the power of the arts to change lives, and science is on our side! Many studies in Asia and around the world have shown the arts have multiple benefits for education; these include better test scores, higher civic engagement, increased capacity in math and language, better emotional and behavioral regulation and increased likelihood of higher education and professional careers.” –Maria Tate, Arts Education Specialist 

Our teachers have been trained by local as well as international art teachers in different forms of arts, including drama, music, drawing, basic circus, and dance, giving them the confidence and creativity to integrate arts into their lesson plans.

For example, teaching the cycle of life using Khmer dance and hand gestures, using juggling balls to explain gravity, and improving motor skills with acrobatics. Or singing traditional Cambodian children’s songs to learn the proper sampeah, experiencing the five senses with traditional Khmer instruments, and engineering solutions to plastic pollution by making clothes out of washed and re-purposed plastic. 

“We take care to ensure Khmer art elements are also used to build an appreciation for the students’ own culture.” –Prang Nhary, Education Manager 

Students can learn the life cycle of a plant through traditional Khmer dance hand gestures. Photo: Stefano Morrone

These arts education workshops are part of our larger vision for Education THROUGH the Arts, an ongoing project for reimagining public education which will continue to develop in 2023.

This training was made possible through a grant by Teachers Across Borders, an Australian volunteer-based organization, which has been supporting capacity building in public schools in Battambang, Cambodia for several years.

If you want to be part of the Phare Ponleu Selpak family, join us as a volunteer!