Cambodian Teachers’ Experiences of Inclusive Education for Students with Neuro-developmental Disabilities


Amanda Ajodhiaa

aMandala Educational Therapy

(Received 22 September 2022, Final revised version received 31 March 2023)

As the educational system recovers from destabilization following the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia gradually progresses toward sustainable and equitable education. Yet, inclusive educational access remains challenging for many rural Cambodian students with disabilities, especially those with neuro-developmental disabilities (NDD) (e.g., autism spectrum disorder [ASD], Down syndrome [DS]) due to lack of resources, teacher attainment and retainment, insufficient professional development in disability and inclusive education, teacher efficacy, and shortage of professionals specializing in inclusive and disability education. This paper explores how 19 general and special education teachers support ASD and DS students’ learning and sense of belonging across five rural primary schools in Kampot, Cambodia. Employing a qualitative phenomenological approach with in-depth focus group interviews, participants shared understandings and experiences of working with ASD and/or DS young people, shedding light onto the essence of school belonging within the phenomenon of inclusive education. Emerging thematic findings highlighted (1) cultivating a climate of inclusion within schools; (2) ways of enhancing inclusive education; (3) navigating dilemmas of inclusion. Within this particular Southeast Asian context, participants conveyed insights regarding the complex terrains of inclusive education, raising questions about suitability of inclusion ideals in light of Cambodia’s socio-cultural/political/historical context.

Key Words: autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome, inclusive education, neuro-developmental disability, primary school teachers, Cambodia