Building Research Capacity For Undergraduate Students Education Essay

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Cambodia is one of the developing countries in ASEAN nations and it has very long history of civil war, political conflict, and economic crisis. Following the civil war and the time of Pol Pot from 1975-1979, most part of Cambodia was destroyed including schools, hospitals, pagodas, infrastructures, and other things. Since 1998 the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has been currently trying to reconstruct all sectors, especially, the educational sector. Cambodia has made significant progress in the area of education, and the government considers education as a vital sector for contributing to the development of the nation from primary school, children's basic education, to the doctorate level. The RGC has continued to implement the Education Strategic Plan, putting emphasis on monitoring, measuring, and ensuring that all Cambodian children, youth, and adult have equal opportunity to access education both formal and non-formal education without discrimination on groups of race, skin color, gender, language, religion, political affiliation of parents, place of birth, and social status. According to Chealy (cited in Sam, 2012) claimed that the RGC has been done huge reforms to maintain the "quality and quantity of education by establishing a wide range of institutions and implementing national strategies such as the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC) in 2003, the National Supreme Council of Education (NSCE) in 2005, the Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency in 2003-2012, the National Strategic Development Plan Update 2009-2013, and the Education Law" (p.2). Both Royal Government and private institutions, meanwhile, tried to establish higher education institutions (HEIs) through the whole country that can help students pursue their learning. HEIs have developed human resources with high knowledge and professional ethics to serve the country. It plays an importance role in "national development and educating future leaders" in Cambodia society (Kian-Woon, et al, 2010, p.19). Currently the RGC tries to enhance HE quality.

Higher education (HE) is a top priority in supplying human capital with technical knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes. It helps to sustain economic growth, social development, and alleviation poverty. HE is one of the most important tools to fit individuals' talent, skill, and knowledge to the right workplace for future career. We realize that it is an important thing for developing any field of studies including the language education field, business field and other fields. Based on the statistics issued by Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS, 2009) showed the number of HEIs to be 77 (42% public) composed of 111 campuses located in both Phnom Penh and some provinces. The number of students enrolled in HEIs increased dramatically from 10,000 in 1997 to 97,524 in 2006, and three years later the total number of enrollment were increased more than 70,000 to 168,000 in 2009 (Kian-Woon, et al 2010). A study conducted by Chealy (cited in Sam, 2012) stated that the rapid increase of HEIs and students' enrolments has lead to the realization of the low quality of education and large number of educated graduates may not be equally matched with market demands. There are many factors that influence on research activity as time, money, and material and human resources. Based on a study conducted by Om (2011) claimed that Cambodian academic institutions do not have enough capable staff to help learner to increase their research skill and learning outcome. However, HEIs do not have their budgets to spend on research activities and do not want to sustain research activities in their institution (Om, 2011). According to a reported by Kian-Woon, et al (2010) also stated that Academic HE research in Cambodian is an important issue that it develops very slowly among other sectors. In general, Cambodian students have little knowledge about research, especially those whose have never had any training and read any document about research. Kian-Woon, et al (2010) mentioned about the current practice for undergraduates students at university with real situation of study that only a small percentage are be able to formally engage in conducting a small research project. In addition, they identified that, nowadays, HE research capacity and development have become critical issues which should be prioritized and suggested that a research culture could possibly be promoted and cultivated from one generation to the next. So HEIs need to build up their quality of research skill in bachelor degree that it is a vital role to produce fruitful citizen and to upgrade their capacity.

Even though many research have been done to identify the issue of the researcher capacity and quality in the current situation in Cambodian educational context but it still a limitation and undeveloped. The problem remains unsolved and banned while the issues are not identified. Furthermore, Cambodia still need more research in HE level in order to explore and describe the current issues. The study will be conducted with fourth-year business students at Phnom Penh University in Cambodia about their perception on research skill abilities.

Problem Statement

Research skills are very important for individual and groups of people in their lives. Building research capacity for undergraduate students is a very important step in increasing Cambodian students' quality at the Higher Education (HE) level to match with the needed both local and international universities (Kian-Woon, et al 2010). After students have done research in their bachelor degree, they will be able to conduct effective research in next level that it's useful way not only for them but also for society as a whole. Doing research will help students to develop their capacity in higher education and enhance the research capacity of academic staff and institutions (Sam, 2012). On the issues mentioned above, the study focuses on undergraduate students' perception in their research skill and why they are less interested in conducting research.

Research Question

This study will investigate the undergraduate students' perceptions of their research capabilities and identifies factors that impact on their research development skill. This study has one significant question in order to generate data:

What perceptions do fourth-year business students at a Phnom Penh University have of their research skill abilities?

Significances of the Study

Higher education institutions have been updated their curriculum from year-to-year to match with the new trend of society by including research subject in undergraduate programs. The aim of the study is to explore undergraduate students' perceptions for their research skill and describe the current movement of the institution and development of research practice to achieve its educational goal. Moreover, the study also uses to identify the main types of research skill they will need to improve in their research, especially, to promote research culture in students' mind. It attempts to describe some experiences of groups of graduates' students and analyze the impact on their research development skill that potentially uses research, to pursue master and doctorate level, for their future career. Addition, the research process can go smoothly, depend on the clear guidance from teachers, supervisors, institutions, are needed as well as students' commitment.

Chapter Two

Literature Review

A literature review is very important for reviewing the relevant topic or theme through a summary, analysis and interpretation of the theoretical, conceptual and research literature (Anderson & Arsenault, 1998). This chapter will describe literature focusing on issues relevant to the research objectives. It structures into several sub sections based on the themes. Themes are going to discuss about purposes of higher education, undergraduate program for research skills, students' perceptions of conducting research, and challenges of developing research capacities. The study will use these themes to describe the Cambodian HE context. The literature review will use wide range of sources both local and international journals, books, and reports. Other sources will be taken from the Hun Sen Library of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), and by using the websites of Asian EFL Journal, Cambridge, Google Scholar, Oxford and Zunia to identify relevant books, journals and articles.

Purposes of Higher Education

Currently many developed and developing countries take HE as a vital sector to develop their nation. Based on a reported by Kian-Woon, et al (2010, p.21) stated that in most developed countries, universities is the key agent in "national innovation and science systems and enhance global competitiveness". As Chet (cited in Om, 2011) claimed that HE acts as a crucial role to providing practicing, conducting research study, and consulting services to institutions. There are many developed countries think about the quality of HE in the idea of "public good" and as an "economic researches" to produce students' learning outcomes (Yavaprabhas as cited in Sokha, 2011, p.9).

Actually the purpose of HE always change from time to time in order to promote teaching and learning activities to match with both local and international context. A study conducted by Fraenkel and Wallen (2006) stated that the general purpose of research is to increase student's understanding the field of education. Research education has been used to enhance education and to address how education works in the current situation (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). According to Donald, Lucy, and Asghar (1996) mentioned that educational research goal is used to analyze or cover generate information to describe, clarify, and control educational event. Another study conducted by Altbach and Balan (cited in Om, 2011) claimed that "the research university is central institution of the 21th century" (p.11). They clarified that research is an "academic institution committed to the appropriate laboratories, libraries and other infrastructures that permit teaching and the research at the highest possible level" (p.11).

The role of HE is trying to improve social development, individual intellectual development, and economic development (Om, 2011). Based on Article 5 of the UNESCO Mission and Function of HE purpose is "advancing knowledge through research in science, the arts and humanities and the dissemination of its results" (UNESCO,1998, p.5). UNESCO also have budget plan in "the advancement of knowledge through research is an essential function of all system of high education" and "institutions should ensure that all members of the academic community engaged in research are provided with appropriate training, resources, and support" and "research must be enhanced in all disciplines" (p.5). A study conducted by Harman (cited in Kian-Woon, et al 2010) shown that universities in the Asia-Pacific region focus on the "increasingly important roles in funding, stimulating, and directing research activities in universities".

Barnett (cited in Malcolm, 2003, p.4) stated that HE is becoming a "big businesses" to collaborate with other businesses area in the public and private sectors across the society as a whole. A similar study conducted by Malcolm (2003) shown that recently HE changes toward making appropriate training for academic and nonacademic staff to increase their research skill for career. He expected that learner and teacher need to involve and increase their understanding what is going in HE research, and be able to participate in research process. Om (2011) claimed that outstanding student will acquire the knowledge of research "easier and faster than those who do not" (p.28). Undergraduate program will help students to develop their research knowledge and skills. Based on a study conducted by Judy and Jerry (2007) identified the four key functions of research as: (a) promoting science as a way of knowing, (b) increasing accountability, (c) improving communication, and (e) enhancing access to scarce research" (p.3). As Anderson and Arsenault (1998) stated that to help learner to become an effective researcher students themselves should understand the "interaction between the answers, questions and who is asking" (p.5).

Undergraduate Program for Research Development Skills

The undergraduate program is a four year academic study program designed to prepare students to the needs and demands of labor market and for their professional work life. The missions of HEIs are to "produce and educate quality graduates with relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities and to conduct research" (Strategic Plan 2009-2013, Royal University of Phnom Penh, p.1). The undergraduate program is a starting point for student to learn and to conduct research in order to pursue their learning in next level. Research subjects are used to develop student research capacity to match with necessary of research skills (Om, 2011). A reported by Kian-Woon, et al (2010, p.30) stated that to develop high quality of HE with both "international standards and the development needs of the nation" is to improve research capacities in universities as a national policy priority. They added that conducting research in HE is the key agent for forward social and economic improvement in Asian nations. In order to develop student research capacity, HEIs need to equip learner with the skills of research. HEIs should include research subject, English, and especially "Using Library Resources" in foundation year that are the basis of research skills (Om, 2011). On the other hand, it's only a small percentage of undergraduate students are able to formally engage in conducting a research project (Kian-Woon, et al 2010).

Students' Perceptions of Conducting Research

Research becomes an influence factor of our civilization. Students had done research through their learning will be able to show off about doing it (William, 2000). According to Anderson and Arsenault (1998) claimed that research is a key agent for a "problem-solving activity which addresses problem, tests a hypothesis or explains phenomena" (p.6). It will provide better understanding and leading of education process (William, 2000). He stated that it also uses to find best solution to the questions, address the problems, and predict event in the future. Moreover, it's the best time to express understanding and skills. Based on Anderson and Arsenault (1998) claimed that we can do research to understand everything around us by using several questions as; "…Why are school classrooms organized in seats and rows? Why is formal schooling arranged in different levels which take place in different buildings and incorporate slightly different methods? Why do some children learn easily and effectively while others have learning difficulties? …" (p.8). As Sokha (2011) shown that all people have different point of view on research process when they work in different position, situation, and regulation.

Challenges of Developing Research Capacities

It's really hard for graduate students to engage and to conduct their research due to the situation of research process (William, 2000). Reported by Kian-Wood, et all (2010) identified and analyzed the key challenges of building research capacity in Cambodian universities as " (a) cultivating newer generations of researchers, (b) revising academic salaries, (c) developing academic personalization, (d) addressing brain drain, (e) improving research facilities, (f) ensuring budget allocation for university research, and (g) consolidating academic leadership and administrative management" (p.34-43). Furthermore, lack of time frame, financial resources, and human resources and material are a crucial role to decrease research capacity.

Lack of Time Frame.

Time frame is very important tool to alert and push us to aware of how we use our time as one resource in organizing, prioritizing, and succeeding our studies in the context of competing activities of friends, work, family, and society. It's a main barrier to hinder learner for conducting an effective research. According to Khon and Pal (2010) claimed that teacher/student don't want to conduct research due to they are very busy with their earning a learning, and they don't have enough time. This is a good evidence to over generalize that time frame is most important thing to achieve our goal. Another study conducted by

Lack of Financial Support.

Financial is a major concern for students to conduct their research. A report by Kian-Wood, et al (2010, p.34) stated that most learner cannot conduct their research before graduate due to difference financial support; and the lack of research culture as "structural or systemic impediments rather culture factors per se". They pointed out that "funding should be seen as the most significant factor of the "magic bullet" in strengthening research capacity" (p.41). Moreover, they also claimed that in order to "enhance quality of higher education to meet both local and international labor market demands through providing budget for institutional operation and research activities to HEIs". HEIs don't have enough budgets for "research activities". The same activity as follow:

Review the selection criteria and financing formula for each HEI, taking into account issues of fee

levels and demand, and improve governance and management of HEIs through increased

transparency and accountability of all higher education, including Government contributions, student

fees and private sector contributions in cash and in kind (Kian-Wood, et al 2010, p.30)

A study conducted by Altbach (2007) shown that the key challenges faced by the HEIs in Cambodia are to develop their capacities as donation, research, autonomy, accountability, globalization of science, scholarship, public and private, academic freedom, and academic professional.

Research is potential role to increase learning outcome depend on four factors as: a) the amount of money spent in research, b) staff and teacher training, c) the capacity of the system to retain these people in research and development activities, and d) an expanded HE system (Sanyal & Varghese, 2007). To promote research culture in HE level both private and public institution, financial support is a key agent to help teacher, learner, and academic staff get involve with research.

Lack of Human Resources and Materials.

Human resources and materials are the main important thing to develop research culture in students' mind. Based on a study conducted by Wright and Cochrane (cited in Om, 2011, p.15) stated that both "institutional and individual factors" affect to a learner's research development; there are three categories that affect a learner's achievement: " (a) institutional and structural issue, (b) individual but non-psychological characteristics, and (c) individual factors intrinsic to the students". There is a limitation as Chealy (cited in Kian-Woon, et al 2010) has argued:

The lack of research capacity may also stem for deeper cultural traditions in Cambodia. Some

examples of these traditions might be the historically hierarchical societal roots [sic] in which

children are taught by rote and also taught not to question either parent or teachers or any other

authority figures. It is not "polite" to question others and questioning is the essence of research at all

levels. Furthermore, there is a lack of stimulating reading provided for children in Khmer language,

and libraries are a relatively new addition to some urban and semi-urban schools (p.29).

Another issue by Chamnan and Ford (2004) described about poor research capacity due to the traditional teaching styles used in HEIs where the lecturer who lead and provide knowledge and skills. As Om (2011) stated that lecturer in a direct influence on the students' research activities and performance. She added that the instructor provides a model to the student as well as providing direct guidance to students as they start work of their own and develop their own knowledge in particular area. Low quality of research capacity due to teacher used traditional methodology in university where a place that teacher play an importance to guide, lead, and import knowledge to student's mind (Om, 2011). Based on a reported by Kian-Woon, et al (2010) clarified about some academic in Cambodia are not interested in getting new knowledge due to lack of a "spirit of inquiry" that most of them receive knowledge through what teacher has been taught (p.34).

According to Chamnan and Ford (2004) claimed about other factors that contribute to hindering learner to enhance a culture of research as the "lack of supporting infrastructure such as copy right regulations, and research facilities and laboratories of necessary size and scope" (p.24). A similar study by William (2000) mentioned that motivation is also the most effective way for doing a research methods course and for engaging students in all level to conduct their research that it is required in the graduate program. Addition, high school teacher, counselor, or administrator is quite the same to fresh graduate students; it focus much on the degree requirement with research that it will be impacted on learning, teaching, and operating of school (William, 2000).


This brief study of the literature review is the over view of what is going on research process that it's very complicated. Institute, significant others, and student themselves are very important factors to contribute students with acquisition of knowledge, skills, habit, value and attitude in successful completion. The institute plays a crucial role in equipping the learner with the knowledge and skills needed to prepare the student in the conduct of the research through the courses taught and the structures adopted by the school or department.

In research process can help to scaffold the students to become an effective researcher in a specific area or multidiscipline. It is to equipped them with the necessary research knowledge, skills and put them into the research context. In the context of student research learning, the institute need to facilitate the students by having a clear research curriculum design, ensure enough guidance is provided from the supervising academic during the conduct of a student's initial research, and provide the opportunities for the students to learn by cooperation with academics especially with research-active academics. Moreover, significant others are the main factors that involve in research by facilitating and providing human resources and material to equip real context. Another factor is individual factors that the quality of student such as their preexisting knowledge, time, motivation, commitment, and effort are found as associational factors to a student successfully completing their research.

Chapter Three


The study will use quantitative method to generate data due to the study is a type of research survey. In order to get deeper understanding from the study, qualitative method also uses to get valid data both primary and secondary. So the study will use mix method to increase strength of the study. According to Creswell (2009) claimed that most researchers use mix methods due to s/he wants to enlarge and get better understanding by integrating both qualitative and quantitative. The study plans to use them to answer research question, and it will descript the sampling method and sample size, data collection methods and data collection process, especially, the strength, weakness and limitation. Finally, the study will choose some of the ethical consideration in conducting the research.

Sampling Methods and Sample Size

The study will design to explore groups of undergraduate students' on their research skill development at Phnom Penh universities in Cambodia. It focuses on students' perceptions of their research development and identifies the factors. The best participants will be used in the study who can understand the phenomenon under the study (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2011). Based on a study conducted by Om (2011) identified that the participant who involved in the research process will get relevant understanding and experience to apply with their current study. The study will use purposive sampling method due to it focuses on particular group of students. According to Hang (2011) stated that purposive sampling is the process use to select sample size that it can represent the whole population.

Purposive sampling will be used to select fourth-year business students at a Phnom Penh University of their research skill abilities. Participants will be able to give the truth about their perception on research skill by completing questionnaire and interview. The sampling participants focus on student who will be studying year 4 in the academic year 2013-2014. Thus, the purposes of the study are clearly explained and participant will be asked to volunteer in the research. Therefore, all the participants are the undergraduate students who are studying in business field.

Data Collection Methods

Rubin and Babbie (2011) stated that the survey research method is the best way to get feedback from participants, and it can be an excellent tool for measuring opinions and orientation in whole population in school. The study plans to use two ways to gather data from the field of the study as questionnaire and individual interviews.


The questionnaire is an important tool for data collection, and it is developed base on the research objective and questions. It is widely useful in many study with both private and public sectors due to questionnaires is easy to give or send to relevant individuals to answer or complete a number of questionnaire and return questionnaire (Kothari, 2004; Singleton, et al 2005). They are convenient due to questionnaire can easily be offered to the respondent, and especially respondent can easy to answer on their way and have enough time to complete the whole questionnaire. Based on Gay, Mills, and Airasian (2011, p.6) highlighted that using questionnaire in data collection process is the best way to collect data due to it help researcher "to collect large amounts of time". Most researchers have used the questionnaire method due to it spend less money, accessible with huge participants, extensively geographic, and more free time for researchers (Kothari, 2004; Creswell, 2009).

A study conducted by Kothari (2004) pointed out the main limitation of using questionnaire as: "(a) low rate of return of the duly filled in questionnaires and bias due to no-response is often indeterminate; (b) it can be used only when respondents are educated and cooperating; (c) the control over questionnaire may be lost once it is sent; (d) there is inbuilt inflexibility because of the difficulty of amending the approach once questionnaires have been dispatched; (e) there is also the possibility of ambiguous replies or omission of replies altogether to certain questions; (f) it is difficult to know whether willing respondent are truly representative; (g) this method is likely to be the slowest of all" (p.101). This study will carefully prepare the general form, the sequence of question, and question formulation and words in the structured questionnaire. In addition, most of learners is familiar with questionnaires and will be able to complete them in inapprehensive way.

Individual Interviews.

Gathering the questionnaires is the best way to generate data but the study still other way to make the data more enriched and valid. Thus, individual interview will be used as a second data collection tool for the study. It will help researcher to gain deeper understanding of the participants' feeling, to clarify the confusing of questionnaire data, and to find more details of the themes that emerged from questionnaire response (Gay, Mills, & Airsian, 2009). Another study conducted by Creswell (2009) stated that it is the best and flexible way for researcher move on the line question and it is useful way for researcher to observe directly the response that participate answer. They will create positive atmosphere, secure and natural setting place where participants are encouraged to share both positive and negative comments (Anderson & Arsenault, 1998). The individual interview will be used to get further information from participant. This study will be gained clear information response from the participant when respondents understand the purpose of the interview (Williman, 2011).

Data Collection Process

The study will be used two ways to collect primary and secondary data is questionnaires and individual interview. The study will be asked participant to complete questionnaires either in the presence or in the absence of research administrators (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007). The questionnaire will be given to participant with more clarification and additional time to complete the questionnaire. Researcher have to give clear instruction and follow up make sure that it will be always convenient and available for the researcher and participants to address any question or problems that the participants may have. In addition, the researcher have to ensure that each participant will completes all items in questionnaire correctly by checking the questionnaires before finally receiving the questions. If participants want to complete questionnaire at home or workplace, researcher have to arrange exact date to get it back. By doing so, the researcher will enable the participants to complete the questionnaire in private and to devote as much time as they wish. However, the researcher will get high rate returned questionnaires with good and valid respond from participant (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007). Therefore, the study will give 200 questionnaires to undergraduate business-students who will be studying year 4 in the academic year 2013-2014. Questionnaire will be offered to the morning shift, afternoon shift, evening shift, and weekend shift. In this process, volunteer's participant will be asked to complete questionnaires. The questionnaire will be translated into Khmer language that all participants can fully understand and answer that questionnaire clearly. Then this questionnaire will be given to participant during the break time and will be collected the following day.

Moreover, the study will be selected 10 participants, 8 students and 2 academic staffs, which they are the representative of the business students and academic staffs in Phnom Penh Universities. During of interview will be spent 10 minutes for each interview when the time break or after class to avoid interruption. Participants will consider about age, sex and shifts and classes in order to make a good representation of the study. There will be used four or five questions to interview with participants who are representative of the groups. The questions must be open-ended questions to allow the participants to express their ideas freely and keep these questions of qualitative nature. The interview will be conducted in the X University.

In order to valid data in the study, researcher has to facilitate, monitor, and communicate with participant both questionnaire and individual interview. There will have some conflicts existing during conducting a study. Hence, the researcher will works hard to establish a favorable environment where everyone feels pleased and comfortable with interview process by avoiding sensitive questions and being as flexible and adaptive as possible. However, there will have one or two participants in the interviewing process who don't want to involve whole, so in order to valid data the researcher will be rejected and going to choose new participant. According to Anderson and Arsenault (1998) stated that being a good researcher respect each participant's contribution regardless of their background, experiences and education.

Ethical Issues

In an attempt to avoid ethical problems, the study will use the process and permission for the school rectors, lecturers, staffs, and especially students who will involve in research process. Ethical issues will be considered when developing the sample. This study will collect data from sample of four-year business students who are studying year 4 in Phnom Penh Universities. The permission letters will be sent to the targeted universities in order to inform to rectors and to get approvals. Moreover, information of my study will be given to participate about what study is, and how they will involve in the study. Questionnaire will clearly state about background of the study and the purpose of using data. Also, the researcher will keep all the participants' names confidential. Particularly, the participants mentioned in focus group will be addressed as Student 1, Student 2, Student 3, and so on. The research will ask permission from the focus group participants to record their voices (Anderson & Arsenault, 1998).