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Learning outcomes

Students will consider how children in Cambodia spend their days, and compare how their lives are similar or different.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One class period

Materials needed


  • In 2000, 104 million school-age children around the world were not in school. 57% of them were girls and 94% were in developing countries — mostly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.1
  • Cambodia’s overall enrollment and attendance in primary school is 75%. Attendance in secondary schools is 24% of school-aged males and 21% of school-aged females. This dramatic drop indicates that children are not completing their entire schooling before potentially going to work.2


Setting the scene

  1. Share with the students some background about children in Cambodia: Not all children have the same daily experience. Some children are able to go to school for free, or their families can afford to send them to a private school. In other cases, children may have to work and help support their families either by earning money or by staying home and helping a parent. This was also true in the United States for hundreds of years, where children worked in factories or helped on the family farm.
  2. In order to visually illustrate the type of jobs you will hear about in the audio, you may choose to project the images of child labor listed in the “Materials” section above.

Listening activity

  1. Play the audio recording of the children in school. (51 sec)

    Please upgrade your Flash Player and/or enable JavaScript in your browser to listen to this audio file.

    Download recording (Right-click or option-click) | About the recording

  2. Ask the students to describe what is going on. Even though they don’t know the language, they might be reminded that it sounds like a classroom.
    • What is the gender of the teacher?
    • How many students is he teaching?
    • Are they all the same age?
    • Imagine: What does a Cambodian classroom look like?
  3. Introduce the second recording by telling students that it is a recording of girls who are selling bracelets. At the beginning of the recording, you can hear how they are continuing to sell even as the person taping the audio is talking to a friend.
  4. Play the recording for the students. (1 min 3 sec)

    Please upgrade your Flash Player and/or enable JavaScript in your browser to listen to this audio file.

    Download recording (Right-click or option-click) | About the recording

  5. Ask the students to describe what is going on:
    • What is the gender of the people selling?
    • How many kids do you think there are?
    • Do they sound like they are at an age where they could be in school?
    • These girls are using a little English, though their national language is Khmer. Can you understand what they are saying?
    • How strong is $1.00 US in Cambodia if you can buy 20 bracelets with it?

Geography activity

  1. Share with the students some information about the site of these recordings. Both were made in Angkor Wat, a UNESCO protected world heritage site. These amazing ruins of intricately carved building complexes and statues are located in and around Siem Riep, Cambodia.
  2. Using maps of Southeast Asia (or an atlas or wall map), point out where Cambodia is, locate the capital, Phnom Penh, and locate Siem Reap in the north.
  3. Use photographs of Angkor Wat to illustrate the massive complexity of the ruin and the carvings that are preserved there.
  4. Share with students information from the following websites about Angkor Wat:
  5. Explain to the students that because this is a very popular tourist destination, children are drawn to sell to the visitors from other countries. They bring what they are selling with them, and walk around the temples to sell things to the tourists wherever they are. They are curious and helpful, willing to do different things for a little money. But located close to these ancient temples is a one-room school, with windows with no glass, wooden desks and floors, and children sitting in blue and white uniforms. One teacher stands at the front of the class next to a chalkboard. There is no technology, and probably no power in the building. The children in the class are different ages, all learning the same information at the same.


  1. Ask the students the following questions:
    1. Both of these clips were recorded on the same day in the same tourist destination. What two activities were children doing there?
    2. Does it surprise you to know what these children are doing?
    3. What do you think they will do with any money they might earn?
    4. Do you think these children have the same opportunities to go to school and play with their friends as you do? Why or why not?
    5. What are the children who are selling trinkets to tourists learning? What might the children in school be learning?
    6. Are there any similarities between your lives and theirs?
    7. Have you ever wished you didn’t have to go to school? If you had to earn money for your family right now, what kind of work do you think you could or would do?
    8. Do you think it’s legal for children in other countries to work? If not, do you think these children might get into trouble? What might happen?


Writing activity

Have the students write paragraph story at least two paragraphs long about two Cambodian children, like the ones heard in these recordings. One goes to Angkor Wat to sell his or her crafts to tourists. What kinds of people does he or she meet? What does he or she do? Another child goes to the school in Angkor Wat. Describe what his or her day is like.

Student interview

Have each student interview a parent, or ideally a grandparent, about their first job. Questions could include: how old they were; how much they were paid; whether they enjoyed the job; what was difficult about it; what they did with the money they earned. Beyond their personal experience, do they know someone in the family who never went to or finished school because he or she had to work? How many years of school did he or she get? What was his or her job?


  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.C.1 Understand how cultural values influence relationships between individuals, groups and political entities in modern societies and regions. 7.C.1.1 Explain how culture unites and divides modern societies and regions (e.g. enslavement of various peoples,...
        • 7.E.1 Understand the economic activities of modern societies and regions. 7.E.1.1 Explain how competition for resources affects the economic relationship among nations (e.g. colonialism, imperialism, globalization and interdependence). 7.E.1.2 Explain the...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 7

  • Goal 6: The learner will recognize the relationship between economic activity and the quality of life in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 6.01: Describe different levels of economic development and assess their connections to standard of living indicators such as purchasing power, literacy rate, and life expectancy.
    • Objective 6.02: Examine the influence of education and technology on productivity and economic development in selected nations and regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia.
  • Goal 10: The learner will compare the rights and civic responsibilities of individuals in political structures in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 10.04: Examine the rights, roles, and status of individuals in selected cultures of Africa, Asia, and Australia, and assess their importance in relation to the general welfare.
  • Goal 11: The learner will recognize the common characteristics of different cultures in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 11.03: Compare characteristics of political, economic, religious, and social institutions of selected cultures and evaluate their similarities and differences.