The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation
Addressing the Critical Issues Facing Asia - 60 Years
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Books for Asia in Cambodia

The Asia Foundation Books for Asia operated in Cambodia from 1955 to 1966, and resumed distribution in 1993. Since its inception in Cambodia, Books for Asia has donated more than 650,000 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.

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.

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.

Partner and Project Highlights

The Books for Life Project. The project was launched to promote a culture of reading among youth in rural parts of Cambodia. Aside from donating books and other materials to school libraries, Books for Life supports library renovations, English essay contests, basic library training and reading festivals. In 2010, more than 2,000 books were donated.

Khmer-Language Book Collection. Books for Asia Cambodia purchased nearly 3,000 Khmer-language books in 2010 to distribute to eleven secondary schools that participated in the Books for Life project.

Librarian Training
. In partnership with Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC), Books for Asia has organized training courses for secondary school librarians. In 2010, approximately 70 secondary school librarians from across Cambodia participated in the courses, including a few university librarians.

Room to Read Cambodia. Since 2003, Books for Asia has helped Room to Read send more than 217,000 books to school children through more than 1,100 libraries in 14 districts in Cambodia.

Major Publisher Donors
: McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, Pearson, Scholastic, Lynne Rienner, W.W. Norton & Company, Abrams, and Island Press.

"The book donation is a really valuable contribution to upgrade human resources among the landmine and war victims from all over the country, and some disadvantaged rural poor. We feel that this is one of the most essential elements to fill in the gap for this population that is long overdue. We trust that this positive effect will empower one generation after another. We are proud that The Asia Foundation has helped make this possible."
—Chhem Sip, Deputy Secretary, United Cambodian Community Development Fund


Soeun Cham
Books for Asia Program Officer

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