About Us

Our Story...

The Open Institute is a Cambodian not-for-profit and non-governmental organization that was established in September 2006 by four founding members who were committed to and interested in contributing to the development of a democratic and just society by facilitating and promoting information, communication and knowledge sharing in society through all means and tools. The founding members were Javier Solá, Ms. Chim Manavy, Ms. Kong Sidaroth, and Norbert Klein.

The Open Institute was set up with the purpose to provide information, tools, knowledge, education and to promote dialogue in society. The organization's key strategies were - at the beginning - to provide computers programs in the Khmer language, to build capacity by providing computer and e-learning know-how trainings throughout the country, to provide electronic channels for information sharing and discussion, and to organize face to face meetings to discuss social concerns, including topics related to gender equity.

The organization inherited the KhmerOS project, created by Javier Solá in 2004. Through this project it helped standardize how Khmer was used in computers, developing the necessary software, creating fonts, keyboards, and all the necessary elements for Cambodia to adopt the use of UNICODE, as this was the one way of moving IT forward in the country. The project started working with the Ministry of Education, and reached its peak when UNICODE was accepted as the standard way of using Khmer in computers by the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS).

In 2007 Open Institute developed a close relationship with MoEYS, and started supporting the development of IT capacity and policy. SInce them Open Institute has closely supported the development of all ICT-related policies and master plans, helped create ICT curricula for students and even the textbooks for teaching IT in grades 11 and 12.

Meanwhile, from 2012 to 2019, Open Institute has worked in ICT-for-developement projects, mainly funded by UNICEF and USAID. With UNICEF Open Institute has worked on apllication that supported UNICEF-supported projects in different ministries with data collection and processing activities (education, health, WASH, child protection). With support from USAID, Open Institute helped the government create voice systems to provide election-related information through the phone, and also helped many NGO is the development of applications that improved their programs. In 2015 Open Institute created Bongpheak, an innovative employment system for low-skilled workers. Bongpheak seamessly united the digital and voice worlds, allowing workers to learn about and apply for jobs only using a normal phone.

Starting in 2017, Open Institute decided to focus more and more on education. In particular, it decided to concentrate in early-grade learning and on eLearning, considering these as the two pillars that would drive education (and Cambodia) in the future. From 2017 to 2020 it completed all its ICT-for-development projects, reduced its IT team (12 software developers at the time), and started its own strategic project of developing learning resources (workbooks) to help parents to support their children in their education, an effor that would be complementary to all the work being done by the Ministry and by all the NGOs that worked in education in Cambodia. To lead this project, Open Institute was able to get the help of two key people who deeply believed on it, and who had the technical skills to do it: Ms. Pamela Hughes and Mr. Menh Saroeurn. Working together with Javier Solá, now executive director of Open Institute, they developed a system to streamlining the learning of Khmer writing, in order to facilitate the acquisition of writing skills and reading skills by Cambodian children. the system involved a pre-learning phase that allowed children to acquire fine motor skills and grapho-motor skills before they started learing letter shapes, then, as a second step, children learn shapes used in Khmer script (parts of letters), and when these become concrete in the child's brain, the learning of letters starts, making the recognition and differentiation of letters, and their association to sound, much easier to learn by the students. 

Open Institute worked first with the Department of Preschool and the Preschool teacher training center to develop the first set of materials, specifically adapted to the teaching methods and the curriculum for preschool, these first materials were officially accepted by MoEYS in 2019, and allowed to be used in class. As no official books or materials existed, these were the first materials to be officially approved for preschool in Cambodia. Open Institute started then to create similar materials for grade 1, where the teaching of Khmer is done very differently. The collections were brought together under the name Koun Sva Chhlat (Clever Little Monkey).

One of the keys to the KounSvaChhlat project was sustainability. As it was not expected that MoEYS could integrate these materials among what it distribuited for free to all students (textbooks), the project had to be able to offer these books to all students each year. The only way possible at this time was to have parents pay for the workbooks of their children. Open Institute's role would be to ensure that they would be available in th website of MoEYS - for those parents who would want to download and print by themselves - and in bookstores at the lowest possible price, for parents for whom downloading was too complicated.

In 2019 UNESCO was looking for a partner to continue the work of developing teacher guides and other materials that would become the Maths Teaching and Learning Materials Packages that government teachers would use to teach Maths in grades 1 and 2 in the future. Open Institute bidded for this work, and was selected as a partner In its proposal to UNESCO, Open Institute included creating - at its own cost - workbooks for students to do work at home with the help of their parents. The workbooks would be fully integrated with the rest of the materials, and would also become part of the Koun Sva Chhlat series.

Along 2019 and 2020 Open Institute drafted and worked very closely with MoEYS to completed the teaching and learning packages for grades 1 and 2 that the Department of Primary Education wanted to have. Once completed and approved, teachers in five provinces were trained to use them during December 2020 and January 2021. These teachers were equiped with all the materials, but students had to be responsible for acquiring the KounSvaChhlat books (either download from the MoEYS webpage or buy them).