Female At Higher Education In Cambodian History Education Essay

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According to the census which was conducted by the National Institute of Statistics of Cambodia in 2008, it was revealed that females accounted for 51 of Cambodias total population. In 2009-2010 only 17% of Cambodian women enrolled in postgraduate degrees (MoEYS, 2011). Why has these happened? What are the factors that influence this result? From my own observation at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) in the master degree in education (MEd) in cohort 6; I see clearly that only 39% in my classroom are women. Similarly, in cohort 7, which is a new cohort, enrolled in academic year 2013 in the same program only 16% of Cambodian women enrolled in the post graduate degree. It is clear that this is unevenness in number of Cambodian female students enrolling in post graduate study. This has long term consequences for the development of Cambodia.

Overview of Female at Higher Education in Cambodian History

Javaman seven era.

Cambodian higher education has a lengthy history but sporadic. Rany, Zain and Jamil (2012) stated that the first higher educational institution was constructed in the period of Angkor Empire, which was a high-powered kingdom in the Southeast Asia region in the 12th century. They also added that in that period, this country consisted of two main universities situated in Preah Khan Temple (Vat Cheysrey) and Taprom temple (Raja Vihear) under the control of Andradevy, the qeen of Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). Murray(as cited in Santry, 2005) pointed out that an inscription recorded Queen Andradevy as the chief teacher of the king. This makes it is clear that females during this era accessed the higher education.

After the decline of Angkor Empire in the 15th century, Khmer higher learning institutions were diminished and shut down due to war and invasion from the neighboring

nations such as Thailand and Vietnam (Chendler, 2008).

During the France protectorate and colonization.

In 1863, during the French protectorate and colonization; there were some schools and higher education institutions. Ayres (2000) maintained that most Cambodian people learnt their cultural heritage through the nation's well-known proverbs and sayings, traditional law through poems, for instance, the Reamker (Khmer version of the Ramayana Indian story) and folk tales through word of mouth.

Four years after the French took control of Cambodia; the first school was built in which 40 students attended. All of the schools utilized French as the language of instruction. In 1873, the earliest public schools in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Kraties and Kampot were opened and the first training center for colonial administrators and officers was also founded (Masson & Fergusso, 1997). However, higher education was still absent, students could only access higher education if they were able to enroll in French or Vietnamese universities. Surprisingly, in 1949, the National Institute of Juridical, Political and Economic Sciences (NIJPES), was founded for Cambodian scholars who aimed to be civil servants in the colonial government (Ayres, 2000; Howard, 1967 &Tully, 2002).

The Sihanouk era (1953-1970).

Between 1953 and 1969, Cambodia was under control of King Norodom Sihanouk, who promoted education from basic to tertiary education. Noticeably, seven higher educational institutions were established such as the National Institute for Law, Politics and Economics, the Royal Medical School, the Royal School for Public Administration, the National Institute of Pedagogy, the Faculty of Letters and Humanity Studies, the Faculty of Science and Technology, and the National School of Commerce (Chhum, 1973). Furthermore, nine public and prestigious universities emerged in provincial and municipal possessions. The Buddhist University, a first university in this era, was opened in 1954 and proved religious studies and Khmer language studies, and the Royal Khmer University subsequently operated in 1960. Five years later, six additional universities came out in 1965 consisting of the Royal Technical University (RTC), the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA), the Royal University of Kompong Cham (RUKC), the Royal University of Takeo-Kampot (RUTK), the Royal University of Agricultural Science (RUAS), and the People's  University (PU) (Pit & Ford, 2004),  and lastly, the Royal University of Battambang (RUBB) which opened in 1967. This era was the period of growing of universities. However, the period I have been unable to find data about female enrollment rate because all data may have been destroyed during the civil war.

Lon Nol era (1970-1975).

From 1970 to 1975 tertiary education declined, because this period encountered social and political challenges resulting from the cold war, especially, the influence of the ideology of a new regime which was covered by western ideas of capitalism, republicanism and democracy (Rany, Zain & Jamil, 2012). However, according to the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports website, the total enrollment in tertiary education in this period was nearly 9,000 students. The largest number at the University of Phnom Penh which had approximately 4,570 male students and more than 730 female students enrolled in eight departments such as letters and humanities, law and economics, medicine, pharmacy, science and technology, commercial science, teacher training, and higher teacher training . Many tertiary education facilities were been destructive and many academic staff escaped to the capital city (Can, 1991).

Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979).

This period was Cambodia under control of Pol Pot. All infrastructures were completely ruined such as road, hospital, pagoda particularly schools and other school facilities. Not only primary, secondary education but also tertiary education was destroyed in the period of Khmer Rouge regime and it was predicted that almost Cambodian educational facilities was completely ruined and approximately 75% of higher educational lecturers and 96 % of university students were killed in genocide during 1975 to 1979. Furthermore, people who were intellectuals were selected for elimination. It believed that more than two million people have been killed during this period (Pit & Ford, 2004).

Post-Pol Pot regime (1979-1991).

On January 1979, Democratic Kampuchea which was under control of Pol Pot was collapsed. The new government was known as People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) was established. This government (PRK) started to rebuild educational system by inviting ex-professors and ex-teacher who survived from the Pol Pot regime participating in schools and higher learning institution. The government undertook its policy of persons with higher education teaches the ones with lower education and persons with lower education teach the ones without education (Hun, 2011). In addition, Tertiary education was considered the first priorities of this period, because it was regarded as a solution to resolve crisis of lack of leaders and technicians in cultures economics and politics (Ayres, 2000a). Due to shortage of human resources, the (PRK) government intended to enroll students as many as possible in order to train human resources (Vann, 2012).

According to Virak (2009) stated there were 6,509 students who were sent to foreign countries to absorb new knowledge between 1979 and 1989, between them, there were 1,426 females, equivalent to 22% . This statistic illustrated that during this period female students accessed tertiary education still limited. Therefore, Gender unevenness in Cambodian higher education has a lengthy history; it means that it has just taken place in present day.

Problem Statement

Since Cambodia switched to a free market economy in the early 1990s, higher education has played a crucial role in human resource development in the economy and almost all sectors. Higher education in Cambodia has expanded dramatically. According to the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports, there were 44 universities and higher education institutes (Department of Higher Education, 2005); and now there are 97 universities and higher education institutions (MoEYS, 2012). Furthermore, enrollment rates in undergraduate degrees have also increased substantially. Mak (as cited in Walker, 2012) reported that in the academic year 2008 to 2009, students enrolled in Cambodian higher education institutions consisted of 136,156. In the academic year 2010-2011, there were 173,264 bachelor level students (70,954 female undergraduate students, equivalent to 41%) (MoEYS, 2011). These figure showed that the number of male and female student enrollments were not far different. In contrast, the number of male and female student enrollments in master and doctorate degree is far different.

The comparison table of statistic on students (Table 1) shows that the number of female and male student enrollments in master degrees in 2009 combined total 12,803 students, 2,258 were female equivalent to 17.6% and 956 students, 53 of whom were female equivalent to 6% were studying doctorates degree. The table shows in 2001 that the total of enrollments is 12,887 students, 2,343 of whom was female equivalent to 18.18% and 981 students, 55 of whom were female equivalent to 5.60% studying doctorate degree. These show that female students in post graduate and doctorate degrees are far less than men.


Comparison table of student statistics from academic year 2009-2010







Female %



Female %

Master Degree












































Note: The Data was collected from MoEYS, Department of Higher Education and Department of Scientific Research, 2011.

Research Questions

In this study I will explore the following questions:

What are some factors that influence 4th year under graduate female students at university XXX not continue their studies to post-graduate level?

What factors or influences do year 1and year 4 female students at university XXX indentify as informing their decision either to or not to continue to post-graduate study?

Significance of Study

One of the foremost scholars on the connections between gender and education, Brown (as cited in Brock & Hsieh, 2011, p 245) encapsulated the issue in characteristically direct fashion: "women are development and without women, no development". The significance of this study will be to find out the barriers and obstacles for female students to continue their studies to post-graduate degree in order to share their knowledge to develop family and also country.

Moreover, the research finding and recommendation will also provide female students more chances to accomplish tertiary education and enhance them to share their knowledge to improve both life style in family and society. Finally, the research finding may also help to reduce gender disparity in Cambodian society by giving useful information to relevant departments and ministries in order to take measurement to solve these problems.

Chapter Two

Literature Review


Southeast Asian countries structure with multi pictures of gender gap in access to higher education. In many countries, females have been under-represented in higher education, but their representation has much better improved over time. Berggren (as cited in Lin, 2011) indicated that in belief of the restrictions of gender role anticipation and social norm, females are lower educational aspiration to pursue tertiary education than males. According to Lee (1998) illustrated that female students made up only 32% of the total higher education enrollment during 1994 in Indonesia. The Republic of Korea, Japan and the Pacific Islands have the best female gross tertiary enrollment ratios, followed by Thailand, the People's Republic of China and the Philippines. However, there were huge gender differences in Cambodia, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Nepal (Ramachandran, 2010). Figure 1 shows the percentage of the female students accesses higher education in Asean countries in 2010. This figure shows the percentage of female students have attended higher education are almost balanced such as Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore. Instead, Cambodia has still substantial gender disparities. Particularly, female students in tertiary education comprise only about 35% of total enrolment. These gender disparities may be traced to earlier levels of schooling. The dropout rates of girls in Cambodia are higher than boys at all levels of education, which limits the pool of female candidates able to access tertiary education (Velasco, 2004).

Figure 1.

Percentage of females at tertiary education in ASEAN countries, 2007

Note: This Data are collected from EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010 (UNESCO, 2011).

Barriers to Access Higher Education

This section examines some of the barrier and other factors which affect women attending to higher education.

Financial barriers.

Sami (2009) (as cited in World Bank, 2009) argued the studies on higher education equity in developed countries classify financial barriers in to three types: First the cost-benefit barrier, second, the cash-constraint or liquidity barrier and the last, the internalized liquidity constraint or the debt aversion barrier. Studies on higher education equity in Southeast Asia countries implicitly utilize those three types above. The studies have just analyzed how income level impact women's access to tertiary education. Brock and Hsieh (2011) demonstrated that family size is an issue in the more dependents there were in the home; the more likely that home based work will be carried on. He was referring to the ability of a family to pay school fee in order to strengthen the capacity of survival both from the immediate income generation from home based work and from the possibility that some of the children, whether boy or girls, may proceed to more lucrative employment as a result of educational success. In an old study, conducted by Beswick and Boreham (1985) on the Australian system of tertiary education highlighted and made some interesting connections between parental attitudes and the presence or absence of financial assistance for female students. Moore, (1987) stated that in general, women who accomplish and complete Australian tertiary education seem to have benefited more from external financial assistance than from familial aid.

Students from better economic backgrounds have better access to higher education than poor students. Ramachandran (2010) showed that some parents do not invest in the education of their daughters and in very poor households, girlas are withdrawn from school. For example, a recent national economic survey in Indonesia indicated that one 3.3 % of students from the lowest, 20% income groups and only 4.8% enroll in universities. However, 30.9% from the highest income families were enrolled in higher education (Nizam, 2006).

Family backgrounds.

Families play an indispensable role in sending their children to schools. Children are far more likely to attend university if one or both of their parents has completed a university degree. A recent Statistics Canada study found that youth whose parents have at least some university experience are close to twice as likely to attend university as those whose parents had completed only high school.

Parental education and family income background also have positive effects on individual choice to enroll in higher education. It implies that parents with higher education or higher earnings intend to build better learning environments for children. They have stronger willingness to pay for higher education than parents with lower education and income background (Li & Min, 2001). Similar studies on higher education in advanced countries revealed that parental education or occupation impacts access to higher education in East Asian countries (Finnie, Laporte & Lascelles, 2004). They also found that family backgrounds tend to be a main determinant of access to higher education. Students whose parents are better educated or have professional occupations have better access to higher education. Similarly, Budria (as cited in Ogawa and Iimura, 2010) argued that parental level of education is related to the child's choice of the type and length of his/her higher education.

According to Becker (1981), families invest in children's education, but are constrained by economic and educational resources of the families. They invest if they have the resources to spend. Li and Min (2001) found that more importantly, the significance of these factors applies to developed countries like the United States of America and less developed countries with different cultural or economic structures.

Ding (2007) found that students whose fathers have professional or administrative jobs and ones who are from high income households have higher chance to enter higher education. However, Agadjanian and Liew (2005) stated that parental education has some significance impact on transition to tertiary in Malaysia. According to Huang (2005) argued that father's education achievement and occupation were weakly negative impact on student academic accomplishment.

Cultural factors.

The under-representation of female students in higher education may emerge from cultural and social factors. Females may have unequal educational opportunities because of cultural barriers. For example, Indonesian families traditionally arrange their daughters to get married as soon as they finish primary school (Suryadarma et al, 2006). In China son preference is still prevalent, because Chinese culture needs the son to carry the family lineage. Therefore, females are discriminated against and not offered equal education opportunities by their parents (Wang, 2005). Furthermore, another studies found that families in Western Europe and North American have tended to favor the attendance of male children rather than female children in tertiary education, particularly when a financial burden is involved (Moore, 1987).

Many people who live in Southeast Asian countries believe that females are more inferior than males are common. They have preconceived beliefs or ideas of women's personality traits, characteristics, abilities and roles in society. Don (2001) argued that these beliefs are even reinforced in school textbooks in which women are supposed to look after housework and do manual work.

From my own observation, some Cambodian females believe that too much education such as post graduate or graduate degree will prevent them from a suitable marriage. It means that they will not find a suitable partner. In Cambodian society, women are liable to get married with men with higher educational accomplishment than themselves, while men are likely to be married to women with lower educational achievement than themselves. These prevent females from enrolling in higher education. Another cultural practice that prevents some Cambodian female from pursuing tertiary education is that when females finish their undergraduate degree; they are expecting to get married then they are involved in taking care of their husband and children.

Female Student Aspiration to pursue Higher Education

Aspiration gives the basis powers that enable people to pursue success and it will impact individuals in the future to get successful or not. Students' aspiration also plays a crucial role in pursuing higher level of education. Lin (2011) found that there was many factors that reduced female students' aspiration to pursue tertiary education such as parental and economic constrain attitude, female students themselves, traditional gender values.

Parents play a critical role in encouraging their children to pursue higher education. Sewell and Shah (1968) indicated that parental encouragement seemed to have strongest influence on tertiary educational plans of female students. Furthermore, Mullent (as cited in Lin, 2011) illustrated that higher educational and higher socio-economic status parents are likely to have higher aspiration for their children's education. This enabled children themselves to have higher expectation for higher educational attainment. Nevertheless, Christie and Munro (2003) found that poor educated and lower economic status parents tended to be lower expectation for their children to pursue tertiary education. Because they were not well-understood to provide good advice to their children, we compared to high-educated and higher socio-economic parents. Mullen, Goyette and Soares (2003) also found that parents' education and socio-economic status were crucial impact to their children's graduate program enrollment. These reveals that parental education and family socio-economic status are very closely link to their children's aspiration.

Another factor that influences the female students' aspiration to pursue post-graduate or graduate education is female students themselves. According to Lin (2011) found that there were many reasons that resulted female students low expectation for tertiary education. First, she found that female students did not attract with research work, while post-graduate degree was completed by doing research, and this degree normally orientated to research job as well. Next, she found that female students were short of self-confidence in educational capability that induced them low or nonexistent expectation for post-graduate degree. Finally, she found that female students were low expectation for higher education, because they were shortage of self-motivation for more studies.

One more factor which affects the female students' expectation to continue to tertiary education is traditional gender values. Berggren (2006) stated women have been prepared from childhood to be caretakers for other members in family. This role is not only completed in their childhood but also continue to adult life when they get married. These women's roles and accountabilities are the factors that minimize women's aspiration to pursue higher education particularly post graduate degree (Lin, 2011).

Chapter Three


Qualitative research is a structure of inquiry that explores issues, phenomena in their natural setting and employs multi-methods to interpret, understand, explain and bring meaning to them (Anderson & Arsenault, 1998). This chapter describes the sampling and data collection method. I plan to utilize to answer my research questions. I will describe the sampling method and its strength and limitation, followed by the data collection method and its strength and limitation. Finally, I will discuss some of the ethical consideration in conducting the research.

Sampling Method


In this research, I use convenience sample; it is easy to collect data because I have personal connection with the university. This research will be conducted at university XXX which I have been employed as the first year lecture there.

Strength of this sampling method is that the researcher is able to select any location where the researcher is easy to access to respondents with utilizing spend more time and much more money. However, limitation of this sampling method is that the research findings can not be generalized to the whole female populations in all universities of the country.

Sampling of students.

Participants will be selected based on purposeful and convenience sampling. According to Mcmillan (1996) stated that purposive sampling is a section of particular elements from the population that will be representative or informative about the top.

The study will focused on two main groups of the female university students, one group comes from year one female students and another comes from year four female students. The participants will be 40 female first year students and 60 female fourth year students participate in this study. This number I assume that it accounts for at least 10% of the total number of the female students in that university.

Strengths of this sampling method are the researchers select persons, places, or things that can provide the richest and most detailed information to help us answers our research question ( Lodico, Spaulding & Voegtle, 2010). Moreover, the researchers spend less time-consuming, less costly and easy to administrate the groups are selected.

Nevertheless, Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2007) argued that the limitation of purposive sampling does not assume to represent the wider population; it is intentionally and shamelessly selective and biased. They added that it may not be representative and participants' comments may not be generalizable.

Moreover, if the researchers do not respective this kind of purposive sampling used, can be highly susceptible to researcher bias. The purposive sampling means that it can be hard to explain the representativeness of the sample. Furthermore, it can be not easy to convince the reader that the judgment you used to select units to study was appropriate.

Data Collection Method


Lodico, Spaulding and Voegtle (2010) stated that a survey or questionnaire is major tool or instrument which is used to collect data in research study. Furthermore, a questionnaire is a data collection method which researchers are utilized to collect data with highly efficient for a large number of respondents, and it can be used of large number of questions as well. Moreover, it enables respondents to provide for individual comments and perspectives in their own words (Anderson & Arsenault, 1998).

However, Anderson and Arsenault (1998) also stated that there are some limitations of using questionnaire as a data collection tool, for instance respondents will not respond because of questionnaire fatigue that leads to non-response bias. In addition, they also indicated that it is very dangerous for participants if they don't understand the questions that leas to response bias.

In this study, I use a questionnaire for surveying two groups of female students, one comes from year one students and another one comes from year four students. I will employ a questionnaire to identify female students' reasons and factors which impact them to continue their study to post-graduate degree. Further, the questionnaire also identifies female students' aspiration in carrying on their study to post graduate degree. The survey will be conducted in order to collect data from 40 year one female students in four classes and 60 year four female students in six classes.

Ethical Issue

In order to avoid bias in collecting data, ethical consideration has been considered when I develop the sampling. This study will be conducted to collect data from female students at a private university in Phnom Penh, I follow the following steps.

To get access to data collection, I have to get permission to do my study from the rector of the university

To get access to year one and year four female students, I have to get permission from lectures that class.

Information will be obvious and transferred to participants by explaining the purpose of the study and the procedures that will be employed.

At the end of the class, I go to class firstly ask permission from lecturer and then ask females students for volunteer to complete my questionnaires.

I declare that all information which participants response in the questionnaire are confidential.

In order to avoid confusing or misunderstanding, all the questions will be translated in first language.