King Jayavarman VII established an education system inside the Buddhist temples around the Angkor Complex during his reign in the late 12th century. Mathematics, astrology, public health, art, and traditional culture were all taught by a king or a priest in the temples.
In the 16th century, pagodas became centers of learning for the local people. After Theravada Buddhism was adopted as the primary religion in Cambodia, Buddhist pagodas became places to protect Khmer literature books and other educational materials during the country’s hard times. At present, more than 70,000 Buddhist monks are living and studying in about 5,000 pagodas around Cambodia.
Buddhist pagodas have become education centers for men who want to learn about Buddhism and other aspects of the religion. A boy from a low-income family has been sent to live with the monk in a pagoda, where he will be educated and trained until he grows older.
For many Cambodians, Buddhism is more than a religion. It’s an important part of their culture. It’s also a way to make sure that the next generation has all the opportunities they need to succeed in life. Many pagodas now serve as schools for students who might otherwise struggle to get an education. Evening classes in English and other subjects are given by monks and teachers, and a large number of students actively participate in these classes.
There are a lot of pagodas in Siem Reap City. Wat Damnak is one of them and has provided education for many students for more than the last 100 years. Students who can’t afford private school can take English classes there. Buddhist monks come to teach every evening, so there are a lot of teachers. Next door, there is a big room with a library where students can read and do their homework.
Located on Wat Bo Road, the Wat Damnak Pagoda is the largest of Siem Reap’s pagodas. During King Sisowath’s rule, it served as a palace (1904–1927). Within its beautiful grounds, the monastery operates a primary school, two charitable organizations, and a sewing academy for young women from the surrounding community.
At Wat Damnak, you can see how the monks who live there spend their days. They are also happy to show visitors around and explain them about Buddhism. It has traditional Khmer architecture, Buddha statues made of stone, frangipani trees, and a pond with colorful water lilies. It is a quiet place to get away from the busy town center. Additionally, the pagoda is well-known for holding the Centre for Khmer Studies. The library, which was founded in 2010, offers more than 11,000 books, journals, encyclopedias, directories, maps, guidebooks, and daily national newspapers in English, French, and Khmer.
I went to the library over the weekend and read a book. There I met a 12th-grade student, Votey, and talked to her. She said, “I come here to read a book most of the time. Before our English class, my friends and I do our homework together. I like this place because it’s quiet and warm, and I can study English at the pagoda for free. Votey, who is in high school.”
The east side of the Siem Reap River is home to the beautiful Wat Damnak Pagoda. From the city’s main center, it’s a quick 5-minute walk along Wat Bo Road, which can be accessed by crossing the bridge in front of Old Market.
In Cambodia, one of the most valuable alternatives to conventional schools is the country’s extensive network of Buddhist pagodas. They are the most effective means of reinforcing education outside of the traditional school system, and that this is exactly what is happening in Cambodia