Choice has its own truck that’s used to deliver safe drinking water and transport poor village children between their homes, government school and the Choice training centre. Children can attend the free government school for half a day, either mornings or afternoons up to grade 6. Once a child reaches grade 7, they are able to attend the government school full time. Choice setup its own vocation training centre to allow students below grade 7 to attend additional free classes for the other half day when they don’t attend government school. These classes are mostly English language and computer training, which are both subjects currently not taught at the nearby government school. Other subjects such as art are sometimes taught when suitable teachers are available.
The children attending Choice classes are mostly aged between 4 and 14 years old and are grouped based on level of English test ability. The entry level is kindergarten where they learn to read and write the English alphabet. They also learn several English nursery songs such as 5 little monkeys and baa baa black sheep. Kinder kids generally have not started at government school yet. They start class at 8am until 11am when they stop for lunch. They then attend another hour class between 12 and 1pm then they return home.
Once they pass the kindergarten exam they progress to grade 1. Here they learn to say the sounds of the alphabet, the lower case letter sounds abc as apposed to ABC and learn to read some basic three letter phonetic words.
Once they pass their grade 1 final exam, they will move to grade 2. In this grade, students will learn how to read simple phonic sentences for example “A cat sits on the mat”.
After they pass their grade 2 final exam, they will move to grade 3. In this level, they need to learn more complex phonic words with 2 vowels in a word such as same, hide and tape. They learn more advanced sentences such as “A big wave on the lake”.
Once students pass their grade 3 final exam they progress to what we call groups A, B and C. All three groups learn the same subjects but at different levels. The subjects are English, Phonetics and now they start computer class as well.
After passing grade 3, students move first to group C. Once they reach a certain level they progress to group B and then the top students progress to group A. The typical class size (either morning or afternoon) for group C is about 15 students, group B and group A is about 10 students. Students are continually being assessed and need to pass exams before progressing.
The reasoning for the group naming system C, B and A instead of using grades 4, 5 and 6 is to avoid confusion with the government school. They use that grade numbering but their levels are not equivalent to those used at Choice.
In computer class, they first learn to type in English. Once they pass their English typing test, they then learn to type in Khmer. Once they pass their Khmer typing test, they then learn to use a number of applications. For each application, they need to pass a test in order to move on to learning to use the next application. The applications in their usual order of learning and testing are Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, Photoshop and CoralDraw. They then learn about emailing and using the Internet but not necessarily actually accessing the Internet.
The Choice school year starts in September, and Choice provides free uniforms and other school supplies such as backpacks, books and pencils etc, based on funds available.
The Choice school day starts at 8am. Grades 1, 2, 3, C, B and A change classes at 9am and 10am. Kinder kids also start at 8am for 3 hours. At 11am they all have lunch. The kinder kids do another hour class between 12pm and 1pm. The other kids go to government school and are replaced with the kids attending government school in the morning. Their first 1 hour class starts at 12pm. They have a 15 minute break before next class starting at 1.15pm. Then at 2.15pm they have another 15 minute break until final class starts at 2.30pm. School finishes at 3.30pm.
Choice is currently building a new training centre on land it has recently bought. In the future Choice might start evening and weekend classes. This will allow grade 7 and above students to carry on learning at Choice as they no longer have time available during week days due to attending government school full time.