The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation

Improving Lives
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Books for Asia in Cambodia

The Asia Foundation's Books for Asia program operated in Cambodia from 1955 to 1966, and resumed distribution in 1993. Since its inception in Cambodia, Books for Asia has donated more than 900,000 books and journals. In the 1980s, Books for Asia provided books to educational institutions serving Cambodian refugees in Site II (Aranyaprathet) and other camps on the Cambodian-Thai border. Read program overview.

Let's Read! Project

Books for Asia, in partnership with Library For All, is launching Let's Read!, a project that uses low-cost technology to enable underprivileged children to attain the most essential of childhood experiences – the magic of becoming lost in a story. We are piloting the project in Cambodia, where we've equipped schools and mobile libraries with tablets loaded with Khmer- and English-language storybooks using Library For All's cloud-based library platform. Learn more.

Current Focus

Books for Asia is a crucial strategic partner in rebuilding the Cambodian education infrastructure, distributing over 50,000 new books donated by American publishers annually to around 100 schools, universities, nongovernmental organizations, libraries, and medical institutes. Books for Asia delivers books to 22 of Cambodia's 24 provinces (including its capital, Phnom Penh). Since 2000, many new universities have been established in Cambodia, and Books for Asia is the only organization providing English language books at the higher education level.

Read more about The Asia Foundation's work in Cambodia.

Status of Education in Cambodia

The Cambodian educational system was decimated by decades of civil war and Khmer Rouge rule. While overall adult literacy in this country of 14.2 million people is at 75.6 percent, a 2008 survey conducted by the Ministry of Planning in partnership with UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) revealed that the gender disparity in education remains large: the adult literacy rate for the population aged 15 and over is 60 percent for women and 80 percent for men, and 43 percent of women aged 25 and over have not completed the first grade compared to 20 percent of men. Only 0.4 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men in this age bracket have post-secondary education. Meanwhile, a 2004 study found that only 55 per cent of the population aged between 5 and 24, some 3.7 million people, were enrolled in the formal school system.

The demand for school-age English books is high as students in government-funded schools choose between English and French to fulfill their second language requirement in grades 5-12. There is an insatiable demand for children's books for young readers and for adults learning English.


Let's Read! Asia Campaign


Lim Siv Hong
Senior Program Officer

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