The Cambodian education system does not have a long continued history due to several internal and external conflicts although its development during the Angkor era outperformed countries in the region. The education system in Cambodia has undergone major changes before having the current status of education. During the colonial time upto 1953 and after the colony until 1975, a formal education system modeled closely on French system and the country enjoyed the quality of education although the access was criticized (Ayers, 2000). The most devastating circumstance was experienced during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. During this period, the physical infrastructure, organizational system and human resource were targeted for destruction in an attempt to build a utopian society by Angkar. School buildings were either destroyed or used for non-educational purposes. Teachers, scholars and professionals were treated as enemy of the Angkar and executed directly or through hard work. Other educational materials such books and documents were also destroyed. When the regime was toppled in early 1979, according to the records of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS), 75% of teachers, 96% of tertiary students, and 67% of all elementary and secondary students died during the Khmer Rouge era, 90% of the schools were demolished (cited in UNESCO, 2008).
In 1979 marked as the start of the movement to reconstruct Cambodian education system. During the 1980s, general education system was adopted to a model of four years for primary education, three years for lower secondary education and three years for upper secondary education. The system was reformed in 1986 to adopt a five years for primary education, three years for lower secondary education and three years for upper secondary education until 1996. Currently, Cambodian formal education structure consists of pre-school education (three years) which is non-compulsory education, primary education (six years), secondary education (three years for lower secondary education and three year for upper secondary education), and higher education or tertiary education. Generally, pre-school education provides to children from age of three to five years old and primary education caters to children from age six years old. After completing six years for primary and three years for lower secondary education, which is the country’s basic education provision, students can continue to upper secondary education or secondary level vocational training programs. After completing upper secondary education, students can register to vocational training or universities, which offer two years for associate degree, four years for bachelor degree and seven years for medical science degree. Moreover, according to the education law adopted in 2007, two other approaches to learning, non-formal and informal education also include in education system. The non-formal education department of the MoEYS plays important role in providing literacy, life skill programs and others short-term vocational training programs throughout the country in cooperation with both local and international organizations given the fact that dropout rate is increasingly high after primary education (MoEYS, 2013).