Lower Secondary School Development Program


Today only 35 per cent of Cambodian children make it to Grade 7. Of the students who do enroll in lower secondary school, 22 per cent drop out before completing a full basic education in Grade 9. Although the enrolment rate in primary schools is considered satisfactory at 96.4 per cent, completing a basic education is a rare privilege for the lucky few (Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Education Statistics 2011).

TLC believes that Cambodian communities are experts in their own development and that education is key. A foundation of basic education and literacy expands an individual’s economic opportunities and is a powerful vehicle for awareness of human rights, social justice issues, and health.

One reason for the low access to and quality of education is lack of community involvement in secondary schools. The short-term pressures of poverty make it difficult for many families to commit to the longer-term goals of education. Poverty also drives the opportunity costs higher as children age and their potential to contribute to family income increases. In addition, teacher salaries are miserly, and schools are badly under-resourced.

The Lower Secondary School Development Program (LSSDP) is a 3-year, community-driven model for school development. The LSSDP is unique in its focus on empowering communities to take ownership of their local state school to drive improvements in education from the grassroots level.


For communities to be involved in school development so that access to and quality of secondary education in Cambodia is increased.


  • To build the capacity of School Support Committees (SSC), over 3 years, to work with their school community to develop and implement an annual school development plan
  • To provide support and resources over 3 years, that respond to school community priorities
  • To promote the good practice of the LSSDP and seek opportunities for growth of the program


• Participatory Rural Appraisal (annual community needs assessments)
• School Support Committee capacity building (including training and practice)
• School community events
• Supporting School Support Committee operations
• Providing teaching and learning materials
• Collaboration Fund for School Support Committee projects
• Partner projects for school infrastructure
• Technical support for networking and school development
• Advocating for strong education policies

School Support Committees

By working closely with the School Support Committee (SSC), a government-mandated group of parents, teachers, and influential people in the community, the LSSDP supports the Cambodian Government’s education development policies at the grassroots level and aligns with the rights-based Child Friendly Schools framework, the UN Millennium Development Goals and TLC’s core values.

Core program activities include training for SSC members in topics such as the basics of communication and fundraising, and additional collaborative learning opportunities such as school exchange visits and education awareness campaigns. The LSSDP also supports the work of the SSC in their community by providing teaching and learning resources, encouraging action in the community, and facilitating support networks.

School development activities are needs based and chosen by the SSC in consultation with their community, so they are particular to each school. Activities range from building the infrastructure needed for a safe school that the community can take pride in (school gates, new toilet blocks, etc.) to purchasing teaching materials, providing small scholarships for the poorest children, or planting school gardens.

At the conclusion of the three-year program, communities are empowered to participate in the education process and to collaboratively design strategies for school development. In addition, communities that are empowered to value education are more able to support children through the challenges of completing a basic education.

For more information about the methods This Life Cambodia use when working with communities, please click here.

For a more detailed look at the LSSDP approach to community-led school development, download the LSSD

Lower Secondary School Development Program Projects

The LSSDP is now in the second program year in two schools in Chi Kraeng District of Siem Reap Province. Preah Theat Lower Secondary and Chi Kraeng Songkhem Lower Secondary. Following careful selection criteria, these schools were selected because school statistics showed relatively low enrolment and high drop out rates. Most importantly, both communities demonstrated a passion for school development and were ready to commit to partnering with TLC to lead their own school development over 3 years.

The LSSDP phased out of the first two pilot schools in August 2013. You can download the comprehensive LSSDP Pilot Phase Evaluation Report from our Learn page.