In 2005, with 17 years of experience in urban education in the U.S., Daniel and Karen Pritzker decided to launch a model school in a high-need area overseas. Siem Reap, Cambodia was ideal for many reasons, among which was the country’s recent history.
Jay Pritzker Academy is a unique PreK - 12+ international standard school dedicated to preparing bright and motivated Cambodian children from rural villages for entry into universities in the United States and other developed countries. The school and all its services are free to the students.
In August 2006 Mark Fox arrived in Cambodia to launch JPA. He identified the three elemental threats to students’ success: near total lack of English, low background knowledge and poor prior education. By November 2006, teachers had been hired, a kitchen built at a children’s center and classrooms rented in five local schools whose infrastructure was also upgraded. An intensive English program began. Demand was extremely high. JPA began educating and feeding over two hundred students per day.
In 2007, enrolment exceeded three hundred. Students spent a half-day learning English with JPA teachers and the other half continuing the regular government school curriculum. In two years, the JPA kitchen served nearly 100,000 meals, before being donated to the children’s center where it was built.
Plans proceeded for a purpose-built, co-ed day school. In December 2007, a site was selected near Tachet, a rural village of subsistence farmers, about 16km outside Siem Reap. A Cambodia-based contractor was appointed to design and build the campus in collaboration with JPA’s management team. Site preparation began in January 2008 and the school was opened in September 2008. Full-time education in a world-class facility began.
In 2008-2009, 150 students were enrolled in Kindergarten and Grades Two, Four, Six and Eight. Another 90 students completed their part-time ESL education. JPA was now following a best-practice, comprehensive curriculum with a model of instruction based on Chicago’s Providence St. Mel School (PSM), adapted to suit JPA students and the local environment. PSM is a highly successful Pre-School-12 school serving Chicago’s Westside African-American community with an unparalleled, 40-year record of sending 100% of its graduates to four-year colleges and universities on substantial scholarships. It also has a 76% rate of on-time graduation from college and an unusually high number of alumni with graduate degrees. Dan and Karen Pritzker remain active supporters of PSM.
In 2009-2010, over 250 K-9 students were enrolled full time and JPA wound up the ESL program. The JPA Kindergarten selection process, a non-linguistic test to select the brightest children from our area, began.
2011-2012 was the first year operating as a Pre-K – 12 school, with 421 students. JPA opened a new high school wing with two state of the art science labs and a powerful telescope. The new Pre-K program became the basis for all enrolment and the selection process was adapted to include a Khmer language element. Negligible attrition, an attendance rate of over 99.5%, and welcoming close to 600 four year-olds every August for JPA’s Pre-K selection process for one of 60 available places attest to JPA’s importance in the community.
The 2013-2014 academic year saw the implementation of our foundation year, which concentrates on further preparing students for education and life after JPA.
The off-the-charts intrinsic motivation of our students combined with the new era of MOOC and other online learning developments encourage us to experiment with new and exciting ways of approaching higher education. 2013-2014 also saw our first graduates enter university in the USA and other countries and the expansion of our summer overseas study tours.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, we implemented our first AP physics and math classes and our second generation of graduates headed overseas to university.
We recruit professional and enthusiastic expatriate and Cambodian teachers who are dedicated to providing quality education to willing students. We recruit teachers who are interested in professional development and who are able to meet the challenges of living and working in a developing country. JPA has a professionally run canteen, a well-stocked library, a full-time nurse, school transport and over forty support staff attending to IT, supplies, gardens, security and cleaning.
JPA students are working hard to improve their lives for themselves, their families and their country. It is our mission to broaden their world and offer opportunities to achieve their goals and realize their dreams through a superlative education.