Will offshore oil drilling make Cambodia the “next Nigeria”? What will the economic ramifications be of Asean economic integration? Nine students presented a diverse range of research findings at Zaman International School to promote a “culture of research” in the Kingdom.
Sok Udom Deth, Dean of Academic Affairs at Zaman, said that the Student Conference on Arts, Humanities, and Social Science was necessary to shift higher education away from mere teaching.
“In Cambodia, there is still little [academic research] not only for the students, but even among the instructors, because most of the time, people who teach in Cambodia tend to focus very much on teaching,” he said, adding that most local research mainly takes place within NGOs and other non-educational institutions.
“To push students to research, and share research results to the public, is hard work because [universities] need to try harder to find audiences,” he added.
Ly Venghong, a 22-year-old graduate of international studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said that participating in the conference gave him his first forum to present his comparative study of oil exploration in Cambodia and Nigeria.
“The research needs to have comments or ideas from the experts to make it the best,” he said, adding that he was intrigued by Nigeria’s “resource curse”, a concept that refers to economic stagnation in countries heavily dependent on natural resources.
“Cambodia has a similar GDP [to Nigeria] and social economies, and Cambodia will host oil construction soon in 2018,” he added.
Udom Deth said that Venghong’s research had him convinced that Cambodia could encounter the same problems that faced Nigeria following its discovery of oil, including corruption and mismanagement of the sector.
He said: “Cambodia cannot become a second Nigeria because of the same reasons in [Venghong’s] study about the beginning of the oil curse in Nigeria.”
Lay Rathseima, a 19-year-old Zaman student who presented his research on Asean economic integration alongside classmate Kim Daraboth, said that the conference introduced him to new aspects of academia. It was an exciting challenge, he said, to have an open forum where researchers and audience members alike could engage each others’ research and offer criticism.
He said: “I have learnt a lot of skills from the conference by practising public presenting skills, writing skills, debating and understanding the process of research – especially the culture of sharing.”
Suos Sovanna, a 19-year-old business student, also said that the conference provided a new educational experience.
“I didn’t think there was this kind of conference that gives chances for the researchers to present their results to the public,” she said.
Udom Deth, who said this was the first year the school opened its research presentations to the public, explained that he hoped that Zaman can start a new trend of original research and review.
He said: “If we keep doing this, more people will be aware and more people will want to participate. And not just from the [student’s] part but from the audience. And if we have more people from the different sectors, it will make discussion more lively and informed
“This is a great opportunity for the students to practice speaking skills, negotiation skills, problem solving skills and team work.”