ELL Assessment for Linguistic Differences vs. Learning Disabilities
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Home› Cultures› Cambodia› Cultural Differences› Home/School Perceptions

Home/School Perceptions

Cambodian Culture American Majority Culture
Cambodian parents regard teachers and administrators as authority figures and will defer to them when there are difficult decisions to make regarding their child. Parents are expected to participate in most decisions regarding their child’s education at school. Parents have the final say.
Cambodian parents have little or no contact with the school and rely on the school system for their child’s education; hence the proverb, “First you learn respect, then your letters.” Cambodian parents view teachers as “intellectual parents” (Tith, 1990). Parents are expected to come to school for a variety of reasons including parent’s night, volunteer activities and school committee meetings.
Cambodian parents would not bring an advocate or to question a teacher’s or administrator’s professionalism. In Cambodian culture, this would show extreme disrespect. It is not uncommon to bring professional advocates to special education evaluation meetings and to question the school administrators’ decisions.
Cambodian parents, when speaking in English or through a translator tend to convey information in a non-linear style. Parent-teacher dialogue is generally conveyed in a very direct style and is conscious of time restraints.

Cambodian parents tend to emphasize respect for authority - including teachers. Looking eye-to-eye with a teacher is forbidden because it is deemed to be disrespectful.

NOTE: Teachers or administrators viewing this through the eyes of the U.S. majority-cultural perspective may assume that such behavior demonstrates something other than respect.

Children are encouraged to look a person in the eye when speaking or listening. This is considered a sign of respect or a signal that the child is listening and attending to the speaker.
Cambodian parents or their children may show reluctance or may refuse to give telephone numbers or addresses of persons to contact in the event of an emergency. Numbers given are frequently no longer in service or invalid, according to the direct experience of the fellows in this project. Parents often give accurate telephone numbers (often more than one) and addresses for contacting them in the event of an emergency.
Cambodian students often perceive that expressing oneself in the classroom is inappropriate. They may view a productive learning environment as one where everyone is very quiet (Nguyen, n.d.). Children are encouraged to give and share opinions freely in and out of the classroom.
Cambodian students are taught to value their own family’s opinion of themselves over individual achievement. They may show a high level of discomfort with individual recognition. Children value individual achievement and recognition.
Cambodians are often stoic when in pain. Children will usually tell someone or show that they are uncomfortable or in pain.
Cambodian students have a tendency not to seek help from the teacher when they do not understand something in the classroom (Walker, 1985). Children will ask for help from the teacher when they need it.

Source: Dittmeier, C., 2005.
Rhode Island Department of Public Health, Office of Minority Health, 2005.
Bempechat, J & Omori, M., 1990.

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