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Letters to the editor

Teachers need guidance on school-politicking ban

Dear Editor,

Regarding Ministry reiterates ban on politicking in schools (Phnom Penh Post, June 20) It is great to see that the Education Ministry is swift in responding to the reported political activities that are supposed to directly profit specific political parties. This act to stem out biased political activities at schools should be banned. However, a clear list of activities that define “biased political activities at school” should be made in order to ensure that schools and teachers know how they can help implement it properly.

Should the list be made, it should not extend to the “teaching of social studies” subjects. Teaching history, civics or citizenship and democracy would not make much sense when teachers are barred from talking about politics. As part of the democracy and citizenship course, “people are encouraged to talk and learn about politics and about political parties, and go to vote, when they reach voting age, to choose a ‘good’ leader”.

Furthermore, when teaching history, teachers should be encouraged to talk about the past conflicts between groups or different political parties, not deterred from doing so. Having said that, also equally important in order to remain neutral in their teaching, teachers should be made aware that their role is to help students become better aware of politics and its nature, the role of political parties and their policies, the National Assembly, the court, the bureaucracy and the people’s role as citizens, to say the least.

However, teachers have no role to indoctrinate students in one way or another or force students to believe in one political party but not the other(s).

If students are considered as the country’s future leaders in our democracy, they should be made more aware of politics, not less. Therefore, the ban should be limited to any “political” activities that are deemed to directly benefit a specific political party or lead to unfair competition in a democracy.

Chheat Sreang
Phnom Penh

Reader weighs in on the Brexit vote

Dear Editor,

In his letter concerning the result of the recent UK referendum (Can the UK come back in? in June 27 edition of the Phnom Penh Post) Dr Virak Prum asserts that the grandparents of those born after 1973 had no concern for the interests of the young who were “naturally attracted to Europe, to cultural diversity, to greater economic opportunities, and to a more enhanced sense of political togetherness”.

An eve-of-result poll conducted by You Gov indicated that a substantial majority of those between 18-24 would vote against leaving the European Union. Unfortunately, for those who wished Britain to stay within the European Union anyway, a major reason why Remain did not win was because it seems only 36 per cent of this age group actually voted.

Had they done so, and voted to Remain, there would have been no Brexit. Clearly 64 per cent were not concerned enough with the benefits listed by Prum to put their cross on the ballot paper. Perhaps they, rather than the older age groups, were the ones who were more interested in the “pleasure of the moment”.

Those who supported the Leave campaign did so for a variety of reasons and many of the ‘grandparents generation’ may well have made their choice because they saw a better future for their children and grandchildren outside the political structure of the European Union than in it. In this they doubtless had the sympathy of Greek and Spanish grandparents. Youth unemployment in Greece is still over 50 per cent and that in Spain 45 per cent. Who wants that kind of future for their grandchildren and the generation after that?

One issue which dominated the referendum campaign was the question of controlled immigration from outside the European Union compared with uncontrolled immigration from within. This is something which directly affected ordinary people living in many parts of Britain, and it is reasonable to surmise that one reason for the high levels of Leave votes (75 per cent) cast in a town like Boston in Lincolnshire was consequent to the stresses on existing communities following on from the demographic changes that occurred there since 2004.

The local representative in parliament, who himself was in the Remain camp, acknowledged as much in a statement made after the Brexit vote. He said he would “continue to press ministers to look at what action can be taken to support public services in our area, which we all know have been strained by recent population increases”.

A pity recent governments, including those of Blair and Brown, didn’t give more attention to strains such as this, which were apparent in many similar towns all over the country, as they were developing – no one can say the warning signs were not there.

Perhaps we should hesitate to say that “lessons will be learnt” from the vote to leave the European Union, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to take the view that a perceived neglect of many communities outside the charmed circle of the M25 had an effect. Take schools.

According to a report published last year by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, poor white boys are the lowest-achieving group in Britain. Before the last general election the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysed the projected spend of each of the major parties and found that there would probably be an average reduction of 7 per cent per pupil by 2020.

Part of the reason for this was an increase in the number of pupils, which was not being catered for by a rise in the proportionate spend. Such cuts would hardly seem to be the way to improve the achievement of a group that, on the whole, seems to be below the radar – or at least was.

Once the turmoil of the present political situation in Westminster is resolved and the demonisation and vitriol currently being expressed by many Remainers in social media and the British press ebbs away, there might be a more measured approach to the way in which the concerns of working class and lower middle class people outside London are dealt with.

I very much doubt, however, that a future referendum would ever lead to Britain re-entering the European Union unless it radically reforms, something that it has conspicuously failed to achieve so far. Uncontrolled immigration from the European Union and the introduction of the Euro would be left, after an SNP victory in an independence referendum, to the Scots.

Michael Hansen
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the authors’ and do not reflect any positions taken by the Phnom Penh Post.



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