Remarks by Sean Callahan, Deputy Mission Director, USAID Cambodia, Program Launch for Early Grade Reading Support to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport

Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Remarks by Sean Callahan, Deputy Mission Director, USAID Cambodia, Program Launch for Early Grade Reading Support to  the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport
Remarks by Sean Callahan, Deputy Mission Director, USAID Cambodia, Program Launch for Early Grade Reading Support to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport
USAID/Monika Kong

(as prepared for delivery)

·      Your Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport

·      Distinguished guests


Thank you so much for the warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be here today with His Excellency Minister Naron and so many colleagues from the Ministry of Education, development partners, and the NGO community. 

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this afternoon to officially launch USAID’s support of the Ministry of Education’s reform efforts to improve education quality.

I appreciate that I am looking out across a broad set of people and organizations who have committed themselves to work towards a common goal to help Cambodian children get a better education. When USAID began looking into supporting the Ministry of Education in early grade reading, we were impressed with all of the work that has been done to help children learn to read. I want to salute the Ministry on the efforts and progress made to date in advancing early grade reading. Minister Naron’s vision, in particular, harmonized our collective efforts to revise textbooks and curricula and integrated these improvements into teacher training. These efforts represent critical steps forward and an important impetus for this collaborative reform work. I would like to reinforce USAID’s commitment to this work. We recognize that improving the quality of education for Cambodia’s children is not a job that any one of us can do alone. I appreciate the wisdom that Helen Keller shared with the world as the first person who was both sight and hearing impaired to earn a bachelor’s degree: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

I commend the Ministry for having a vision that brings all of us together to work towards a common goal, and I applaud all of you for putting collaboration first instead of organizational priorities or individual recognition. Henry Ford, an American entrepreneur who revolutionized how Americans worked, stressed that: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Over the last several months, many in this room began the process of coming together. You committed to working together and seeking ways to work better. Over the past day and a half you helped develop a plan to work together over the next year. I hope that we will be able to sustain this commitment so that we can achieve the plan as a team. The measure of our combined success will depend heavily on how well we are able to implement this plan that you have jointly created.

I commend you for refusing to accept the world as it is and seeing the potential for the children of Cambodia. You are bringing to life the ideal that all people, regardless of disability, gender, or place of birth deserve to enjoy equal access, equal opportunity, and the education they need to realize their limitless potential. By investing in these children’s education, you are preparing Cambodia’s next generation to meet the needs of the 21st century.

I am the father of four daughters and have watched each of them learn to read. I have watched them discover the joy of reading and I have found them lost in books. The books have taken them to the moon, allowed them to explore ancient civilizations, and provided them an endless library of knowledge. Learning to read by the end of grade three helps children to unlock their potential. We know that children’s reading ability has a direct impact on their future success, across grades and across subjects. Without reading skills children often find walls and barriers as they move through their education. By unlocking the power to read, we tear down those barriers and help children down a path that leads to endless possibilities for themselves and for Cambodia.

In closing, I would like to share a quote from a personal favorite author of mine, Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” I am grateful to see so many people here who care about Cambodia’s children and care enough to work for change.

Thank you for caring and thank you for your time over the past few days. Your excellency, Minister Naron, thank you for your vision and for helping us all to join together in this important work. We look forward to continue our work with the Ministry and all of these partners to turn this plan into action.

Thank you.

Kep Province
Issuing Country