Japan yesterday pledged $529,068 to the Shanti Volunteer Association to build a model preschool, equipped with a library, in Battambang province.

The grant contract was signed between Horinouchi Hidehisa, Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia, and Kase Takashi, SVA country director.

According to a press release from the Japanese embassy, SVA aims to improve the quality of early childhood education through the establishment of a model preschool equipped with a library. It also aims to train preschool teachers and librarians in Battambang city.

The preschool will accommodate about 450 children and 1,000 others in the province will be able to access its preschool education programmes through the library.

Mr Horinouchi yesterday said that the project will create a model preschool to promote reading among children and increase the ability of teachers in Battambang to improve the quality of preschool education.

“We hope that this project will improve preschool education in Battambang province,” he said.

Mr Kase said there is currently an average of more than 50 pupils per classroom in schools, which is double the ideal number recommended by the Education Ministry.

He said teachers struggle to teach such a large number of children.

“Building this preschool can contribute to reducing the number of students in schools to attain the appropriate level and allow children to play and learn in a comfortable environment,” Mr Takashi said. “By promoting reading through the library and improving the teachers’ technical skills, we hope to improve children’s education.”

He added that SVA is collaborating closely with the provincial education department on the project.

“We will do our best to maintain good cooperation to implement the project which also contributes to boosting Japan-Cambodia relations,” he said.

Mr Kase said that the preschool is also expected to play an important role as a model learning academy in the province.

The Japanese government’s grant assistance programme for Japanese NGO projects in Cambodia began in 2002 to support activities that help the Kingdom’s reconstruction and development efforts at the grassroots level.

Since 2002, Japan has provided more than $35 million for 114 projects, mainly in the field of primary education, health, agriculture and mine clearance.