Abstract

Cambodia is a dynamic country in transition and its population is committed to improve an economic, social, and educational system (Chandler, 2008). An imperial legacy and traumatic history involving a genocide specifically targeted at Cambodian intellectual elite continue to affect Cambodian schools with the most impact being felt by vulnerable populations including children from poverty and children with disabilities. An ecological framework of childhood development (Bronfenbrenner, 1992) is used to analyze interviews, classroom observations, and student work samples. School directors (3), teachers (3), students (2), and one parent from three public schools in three distinct provinces participated in this study, providing a broad geopolitical range of Cambodia. First, a review of Cambodian education and special education policy as well as international guidelines for inclusive education is provided. Next, a rationalization for including students with disabilities and children from poverty in the larger category of children from vulnerable populations is presented within the Cambodian context. Themes of key factors affecting the educational experience of children from vulnerable populations include: (1) school and community interconnectedness, and (2) Cambodian historical legacies. Perceptions, attitudes and beliefs of Cambodian practitioners are also key factors, and include: (1) Intersectionality of disability and poverty; (2) two distinct purposes of education, and (3) educators value responsive education. This qualitative analysis surfaces key factors affecting the educational experiences of Cambodian children from vulnerable populations by investigating perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes of various Cambodian education professionals and their decision-making concerning these students. Limitations and implications are provided.

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