Cambodian parents could face legal action for keeping any child under grade nine out of school if the Kingdom adheres to a set of guidelines for nationwide education set forth yesterday by the United Nations.

The government would have until 2030 to achieve six Education for All objectives if they are approved globally at UN’s session this September in New York. The objectives include improvements in early childhood education; literacy; life skills; gender equality; and quality education.

“When [the Sustainable Development Goals] come into effect, some countries will have to modify and amend laws so that children can be educated for free until grade nine,” said Chin Chanveasna, executive director of NGO Education Partnership.

In order to accomplish this in the next 15 years, he explained, a “compulsory” mandate must be implemented at the legislative level to hold both parents and government officials accountable.

In Cambodia, where less than 4 per cent of the gross national product is spent on education, an increase in spending will also be essential to meet these goals, according to a government report released yesterday.

The global report on the progress towards universal education since 2000 was also presented yesterday.

Hang Chuon Naron, minister of education, said it will take time to change current attitudes in civil society.

The primary school drop-out rate, he added, remains high due to job prospects in the garment sector and economic migration to neighbouring countries.

The long-term priority plan, he said, is “to ensure that our youth receive 12 years of free-of-charge education based on quality and equality.”