Hidden privatization of public education in Cambodia: Equity implications of private tutoring

William C. Brehm, Iveta Silova


The international construction of a new political economic order in Cambodia has had contradictory effects on education. The rhetoric of democracy thrives alongside corruption and human rights abuses, the Education for All initiative exists alongside privatization of public education, and many international education development efforts perpetuate (post)colonial legacies. In this context, private tutoring has emerged as an essential part of the public education system. A mastery of the required curriculum is now possible only through a careful combination of public schooling and private tutoring. Only those who can afford private tutoring thus receive access to a complete national education and have greater opportunities to successfully graduate from public school. Drawing on a preliminary analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, including 26 classroom observations, six focus groups with a total of 37 participants, grade tracking of 36 students, and informal interviews with 10 participants, this article examines the nature, scope, and equity implications of private tutoring in Cambodia. The article concludes by explaining how a seamless combination of public schooling and private tutoring creates an educational arrangement that continues to stratify Cambodian youth along socioeconomic lines.


Cambodia; Private tutoring; Shadow education; Privatization

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Journal for Educational Research Online/Journal für Bildungsforschung Online (ISSN 1866-6671)