The French school of Battambang, founded in 2012 by two parents of students, on the base for 5 children, today, for its tenth birthday, has about 70 students, which it welcomes in a new building that it invested in 2019.
It is managed as an association and allows its students to receive French education from kindergarten to the third grade.
The school just got approval for its kindergarten classes, this is a chance for us to shine the spotlight on it.
Jean-Christophe Diepart, the co-chair of the association with Mathieu Damperon, agreed to answer our questions.
You have recently received approval from the Agency for French Teaching Abroad (AEFE) for your kindergarten classes, what does this mean?
Recognition of the work of the teaching team since the school started ten years ago and validation by the French Ministry of National Education that the quality of the education offered meets the expectations of the Ministry. This also means that the EFB is now part of the large French education network abroad. In addition, with this certification, teachers can benefit from appropriate professional training in the context of their work.
This approval is therefore not only an achievement, but above all a commitment for the future.
This will also allow us to intensify our collaboration with the LFRD in Phnom Penh, the French School of Siem Reap, the IFC (French Institute of Cambodia) and the Alliance Française of Siem Reap.
Are the classes you teach, which have not yet been approved by the AEFE, still recognized by the national education system?
Yes, as we use the CNED (National Center for Distance Learning) as a learning aid; CNED courses are designed by National Education teachers in accordance with official programs; students can therefore go to a French school when they leave Battambang. The CNED is also recognized by foreign school systems. We therefore recruit teachers who supervise the work of the students. The assessments are corrected in France by recognized correctors.
In addition, most of our students who have studied at the EFB integrate easily and are among the best students in their new school because they have acquired the ability to work independently, an essential part of academic success.
How do you manage to teach classes from kindergarten to ninth grade?
Our goal is the quality of the work of students and teachers. It involves small class sizes to allow very good student support. Because the number of children per level is limited, we have certain classes in multiple levels (maximum 2 or 3), depending on the number of children at each level. The total number of children in a secondary or primary school class is between 8 and 15, which allows for personalized guidance and support from the teaching staff, which usually consists of a full-time teacher and an (e)assistant.
We also notice a solidarity between students, young and old, which creates a very positive social and educational dynamic.
This year we have a total of 41 children in the kindergarten divided into two classes. Ultimately, we hope to accommodate a total of 90 students in the establishment.
How much does training cost. Is there a possibility to get scholarships?
In 2022-2023, depending on the level and size of the siblings, tuition fees, excluding CNED, will be between USD 2,550 and USD 3,000. Added to this are the costs of extracurricular activities such as the canteen or learning languages or sports. These fees are among the lowest in Asia for an international school.
As a non-profit organization we have to offer a quality educational offer, but at the best price.
AEFE Scholarships are reserved for French children, according to certain criteria and allocated based on income testing. We also have a private scholarship program for Cambodian children from economically disadvantaged families and some children sponsored by private donors. The idea is to have a school with socio-economic and cultural diversity, a wealth for all.
You receive about 65% Cambodian children, where do you think that popularity comes from?
Since 2013, some Cambodian families have raised their 3-year-old children at our school. After seeing the social and educational development of their children, in a caring environment where it is extremely rare to see a fight between children, word of mouth worked. Although Cambodian families are very (more?) interested in learning the English language, the EFB offers quality international education, with language lessons from an early age: French of course, but also Khmer and English. So some children are trilingual!
Other families are considering international schooling abroad, for example in Australia or Belgium; EFB enables their children to grow up in an international environment that prepares children for education anywhere in the world. Many Cambodian children follow dual training, at the EFB and in a Cambodian school, which we support so that they are fully integrated into the Cambodian education system. We believe this is one of the reasons why the EFB has received the benevolent support of the Battambang Governorate and the Cambodian Minister of National Education and his team over the past decade. These kids are among the best students anywhere. In addition, we receive requests from French families who want to settle and invest in Battambang, but who would not come if there were no quality school.
What were the consequences of the Covid crisis for you?
Two days after the schools closed in 2020, the EFB continued the school program on video. The families have highly valued the continuity of their children’s education and have remained faithful to our institution. Despite everything, the impact of COVID was felt on three levels: some families were unable to continue raising their grandchildren at the EFB; enrollment in 2021-2022 slightly decreased instead of increased; young children had to take advantage of private and intensive classes we provided to make up for the delay in the “visio” period. These elements led to delicate cash management.
But since 2019, thanks to donations from the Occitanie region, the Fondation de France, STAFE (Support for the associative fabric of the French abroad) and private donors, the EFB has been able to invest in teaching materials and infrastructure, which has enabled it to to offer an even better educational offer for the 2022-2023 school year. At the start of the 2022-2023 school year, the EFB has registered 71 children, allowing our association to continue its work in good conditions.
Our project in the coming years is to raise $60,000 in non-regular funds to continue to improve and innovate the infrastructure and teaching materials and to fund more scholarships for Cambodian children.
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