The Cambodia Higher Education Education Essay

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Cambodia is a country located in Southeast Asia and joints frontier with Vietnam, Loa and Thailand. According to World Bank as cited in Rany, Zain Jamil, 2012 showed that Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world with population of 14.7 million people with annual gross domestic product (GDP) of 802 USD per capita. Population earns for living on agriculture approximately 55 percents, and population lives with poverty 35 percents.

The Cambodia higher education has existed long time ago. The first higher educational institution was constructed in the period of Angkor Empire, which was a powerful kingdom in the Southeast Asia region in the 12th century. 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). 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). In 1863, Cambodia was under the French protectorate and colonization; there were no schools and higher education institution. Ayres (2000) maintained that most Cambodian people learnt their abundant cultural heritage through the nation's well-known proverbs and sayings, traditional law by poems, for instance Reamker (Khmer version of the Ramayana Indian story) and folk tales through word of mouth.

Four years after French took control on Cambodia; the first school was built in which 40 students attended. All of them as royal family utilized French language of instruction. In 1873, the first public schools in Phnom Penh, Kampot, Kampong Cham and Kraties 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 not access higher education if they wanted to carry on their studies to higher education they would allow to enroll in French or Vietnam university. Surprisingly, in 1949 the first Cambodian higher learning education, namely the National Institute of Juridical, Political and Economic Sciences (NIJPES), was founded for Cambodian Scholars who intended to be civil servants in the colonial government (Ayres, 2000; Howard, 1967; Tully, 2002).

During 1953 to 1969, Cambodia was under control of King Norodom Sihanouk, he 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). Moreover, nine public and prestigious universities appeared in provincial and municipal territories. The Buddhist University, a first university in this regime, was opened in 1954 offering religious studies and Khmer language studies, and the Royal Khmer University followed 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 ran in 1967. This era was the period of growing of universities.

From 1970 to 1975 tertiary education declined, because this period was encountered with 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). Many tertiary education facilities were been destructive and many academic staff escaped to capital (Can, 1991). Moreover, university confronted a severe shortage of teaching staff with foreign lectures playing a crucial role in university teaching and employers complained about shortage of competent graduates (Chhum, 1973).

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 percent of higher educational lecturers and 96 percent of university students were killed in genocide during 1975 to 1979 (Pit & Ford, 2004).

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 Ministry of Education Youth and Sports showed that 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 have also increased substantially. Mak (as cited in Walker, 2012) reported that in the academic year 2008 to 2009, students enrolled in Cambodia 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 40.95%) (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 was far different.

The comparison table of statistic on students below shows that the number of female and male student enrollments in master degree in 2009 is combine 12,803 students, 2,258 of whom are female equivalent to 17.63% and 956 students, 53 of whom were female equivalent to 5.54% studying doctorates degree. In 2010 the table shows that the total of enrollments is 12,887 students, 2,343 of whom is female equivalent to 18.18% and 981 students, 55 of whom were female equivalent to 5.60% studying doctorates degree. These show that female students in master and doctorate degree are far less than men.

Table 1. Comparison table of student statistics from academic year 2009-2010









Master Degree
































Sources: MoEYS, Department of Higher Education and Department of Scientific Research, 2011.

Research questions

According to MoEYS demonstrates that female students at tertiary education are less than man. In this study will explore the following questions:

What factors that result year four female students at university XXX not continue their studies to master?

What factors or influences that year 1and year 4 female students at university XXX indentify as informing their decision either to or not to continue to master?

Significance of study

One of the foremost scholars on the connections between gender and education, Lalage Brown, encapsulated the issue in characteristically direct fashion: women are development and without women, no development (Brock & Hsieh, 2011). The significance of this study will find out the barriers and obstacles for female students to continue their studies to master 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 social Cambodia which has strong gender gap.



2.1 Gender

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 representations have much better improved over time. Lee (1998) presented that female students made up only 32 percent of the total higher education enrollment during 1994 in Indonesia. The Republic Korea, Japan and the Pacific Islands have the best female grass tertiary enrollment ratios, followed by Thailand, People's Republic of China and the Philippines. However, there were huge gender differences in Cambodia, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal (Ramachandran, 2010). According to the returns to the 2010 GMR that demonstrated by (Brock & Hsieh, 2011) the percentage of tertiary-level student who were female in 2007 were: Brunei 65%, Cambodia 35%, Indonesia 50%, Lao PDR 42%, Malaysia 54%, Myanmar 58%, the Philippines 54%, Singapore 49%, Thailand 54% and Vietnam. The figure above show the percentage of female students have attended higher education are almost balanced such as Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Singapore. Instead, Cambodia has still substantial gender disparities. Particularly, female students in tertiary educations comprise only about 35% of total enrolment. The 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 to access tertiary education (Velasco, 2004).

2.2 Barriers to access to higher education

This section examines barrier and other factors which affect to attend to higher education.

Financial barrier

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. Nevertheless, studies on higher education equity in Southeast Asia countries implicitly utilize those three types above. The studies have just analyzed how income impact to access to tertiary education. Brock & Hsieh (2011) demonstrated that family size is an issue that more dependents there are in the home, the more likely that home based work will be carried on. He is 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.

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

Family backgrounds

Place of residence

Cultural factors

2.3 Cambodian female student aspiration at higher education