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The Constructive Cambodian

While high school students in the Kingdom have long been used to depending on their teachers to learn, life at the country’s better universities provides a new learning environment where students must engage in active thinking, analysing and problem solving on their own.

During the four years spent studying at university, students have the benefit of being surrounded by professors and peers pushing each other to learn, but as students approach graduation and look for a fresh start and a good job, the outside impetus to continue to improve your intellectual capacity inevitably diminishes. Recent graduates must realise that they can’t relax with their degree in hand; they must meet the challenge presented by a modernising workforce and continue to acquire knowledge and skills that will be crucial to their success throughout their careers.

While the rate of dropouts in higher education is rarely listed among the major concerns and failures of Cambodia’s education system, the weight of expectations that some students must shoulder during their years at university can be overwhelming, especially if they have hardworking parents at home who are counting on the economic returns from their investment in higher education. Just making it to graduation day is a shining success for many students, however there is no guarantee that a job is waiting for anyone with a degree. The thousands of students just beginning their time at university may not realise it, but if they want to reach the top of their field, the upcoming four years are only the beginning of a lifelong effort to equip yourself with the tools to compete within a workforce where the expectations of employers will rise higher and higher.

People like Kong Sidaroth, a recipient of an Australian Leadership Award who is working towards her Masters degree at the University of Melbourne, recognise that academic success and professional success do not guarantee similar results in the future. In an email she wrote to me last week, she explained that “universities can set accomplishment criteria and levels of success, but how hard students study depends on the commitment and willingness of the students themselves,” going on to explain that the work ethic students establish while studying must carry over as they begin to focus on their chosen field in a professional capacity. “Stay focused on your specialisation to build a solid knowledge,” she advised ambitious Cambodian youth, saying that staying focused will prove more valuable than “learning a bit of this or a bit of that, which in the end you cannot do much with.”

Having already built a reputation for her work with the Open Institute to integrate technology into Higher Education in the Kingdom, Kong Sidaroth stepped away from the professional sphere to further refine her expertise, enrolling in a Master’s level management programme in Australia.

The individual motivation and focus that students are able to maintain are key to being a successful student, and no less important when your years at university become memories that you look back on. People who continue to be active learners upon entering the professional realm will not have to look for job opportunities; jobs will come looking for them. Remembering to stay driven and remain focused on self-improvement when you leave the support network that universities provide will prove essential to building on the success you have as a student.

You really have to be self motivated to keep up the pace of learning that was demanded at university. Help out your peers and tell them what you do to stay sharp at



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