The Development of Education in Cambodia

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Cambodia is a country located in Southeast Asia. And its border shares with Thailand, Vietnam and Lao PDR. Cambodia was under the control of Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. In the period of Khmer Rouge, millions of innocent people were killed including educated people. Schools, hospitals and other infrastructures were destroyed. Due to the lack of human resources, social insecurities, and other facilities, the government has put all his effort in order to develop the country by making the country become more stable, by constructing more schools, and by encouraging more people to get education. Following the "Rectangular strategy", education sector is one of the important factors that can lead Cambodia to develop in the age of globalization (The Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency in Cambodia, 2004, July). Education sector can be classified into three categories. They are primary, secondary and tertiary education. Primary education aims to provide basic knowledge such as reading and writing for people to avoid illiteracy and to help them upgrading their personalities adapted to the social changes (UNESCO, 1999). According to Global Studies 202, "Secondary education arms to ensure the development of their freedom of thought and expression, to build their attitude of tolerance, and at the same time, to develop their talents in order to create a harmonious society" (Education in Cambodia, n.d). Moreover, tertiary education is the most important sector in the development of Cambodia. Tertiary education aims to provide the concept of learning and the skill for students to apply to the field that they are attending to. In this paper, it is mainly focused on the topic of higher education for both advantages and challenges in the development of Cambodia. I am going to divide it into three main parts. Firstly, it discusses about the development for tertiary education in Cambodia. Secondly, it shows the advantages of tertiary education. Finally, the challenges of tertiary education are also examined.

The development for tertiary education in Cambodia

Tertiary Education is one of the most important areas in the development of Cambodia. Due to the lack of human resources and political instability, the Royal Government of Cambodia strived to reconstruct the hospitals, schools and other infrastructures in order to strengthen the educational system throughout the country. As a result, many universities, institutes, other institutional and training centers were established and restructured in both public and private. In the early stage, there are nine higher education institutions have been established which provide the educational skills of agriculture, medicine, economics, industry, technology, teacher training, science, art and culture. The higher education system in Cambodia has been growing significantly in the last decade (country summary of higher education, n.d). According to Leng (2010, p. 28), the total number of "higher education institutions" in Cambodia are 63 including both public and private institutions, which 18 institutions are public and 45 institutions are private (Ministry of Education, Youths and Sports [MoEYS], 2009). In addition, in order to strengthen the quality of the educational system for tertiary education, "Royal Decree" had created the Accreditation Council of Cambodia (ACC). It aims to develop the quality in the educational structure to meet with "international standards" (Country Summary of Higher Education, n.d).

The advantages of tertiary education

In the age of globalization, tertiary education is very essential for Cambodian country to develop the economy and other sectors. Higher education is the source of creating human resources. According to Leng (2010, p. 27) "higher education was viewed as the key to human resource development in the economy" (as cited in Duggan, 1997). Once people are educated, there will be the reduction in the number of poverty in the society, there will be the increasing in the number of investments and there will be a chance to bring Cambodia to develop her economy in a very near future. Furthermore, tertiary education also plays an important role of promoting social unity and solidarity in the society. "The norms, values, attitudes, and ethics that tertiary institutions impart to students are the foundation of the social capital necessary for constructing healthy civil societies and cohesive cultures" (World Bank, 2002, p. 23). Because of the quality of higher education, people respect each other and know what they do are right or wrong. According to the speech of Samdech Hun Sen, "A country could develop with one important factor - human resources, which is relating to not only intelligence but also morality of every individual." as reported in Cambodia New Vision, Hun Sen (2007).

The challenges of tertiary education

Higher education provides lots of benefits to develop the economy, unity and solidarity in the country. However, higher education, in the age of globalization, is facing several challenges for the development in Cambodia. Firstly, most fresh graduate students are jobless due to the lack of quality in higher education institutions. Leng (2010) showed that most of the private post-education institutions established the courses for commercial purpose, which "require only little capital investment at the expense of fields that are vital for expansion and economic growth (e.g. science, technology, and in particular postgraduate research)" (as cited in Pit & Ford, 2004, p. 356). According to Leng (2010), owing to the "short-term needs of market forces and without sufficient quality" in the private sector, this will reduce the quality of tertiary education system (as cited in Chet, 2006). Moreover, most post-secondary education institutions are mainly located in the city, Phnom Penh, so students who graduate from secondary education in the province or rural area, they have to move to the city in order to pursue their study. This will cost a lot for them to pay for the school fee and for their living. As a result, some students may dropout from school and work in the factory or any other kinds of work that give them money to support their family. In addition, higher education also causes troubles in the society when educated people use their knowledge in a bad way. In his speech at the "graduation ceremony of teachers and teaching staffs" as reported in Cambodia New Vision, Hun Sen (2007) says,

We may think that those who produce drugs are un-educated or unintelligent.

They have knowledge. Only that they do not use their knowledge for good cause.

They would be those who have been educated in pharmaceutics, and not illiterate

people. Those who produce explosives like bombs, etc. are those with high

education and training - but they as individual tends to perform negative action. It

is yet unrealistic to think of every intellectual as good person. We should try and

keep ourselves from committing those bad acts but good ones for our society and

country to develop.


To sum up all the points that have mentioned above, tertiary education is playing a vital role in leading the country to develop the economy, unity and solidarity. In the age of globalization, post-secondary education develops human resource: governor, doctors, professors, lecturers, and the like. However, higher education has its challenges. The quality of higher education, the obstacle for province student to continue their study, and the educated people who use their knowledge in a bad way are the main factors that the government concern. Thus, the government should put his effort to pay more attention on these issues and to solve the problems.