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Should education be both theoretical and practical?

130109 04
Photograph: Phnom Penh Post

Most Cambodian teachers seem to follow the motto: “Teaching students to catch fish is better than giving them the fish”. This is because they believe it will help students in life after graduating. Teachers  However, the teacher fail to put the teaching into practical.

Hok Sotha, a scholarship student to study in Japan, finds it hard at first to adopt the other educational system. He sees the differences of Education in Cambodia and Japan that Japanese students are very active. They have to do research and be the owner of their study in the academic lives. It seems like nobody tell them what to do.

He said, “In Japan, it is quite different from our countries that all course are selected by students and students can select subjects they are interested in, which is provided in the semester.”

Pou Sovachana, a Lecturer of Ethics at Pannasastra University of Cambodia, says, “In Cambodia, most students wait for their teacher to tell them what to do, study and learn, and how to act. This teacher-centered approach fails to develop students’ unique capacities and personal characteristics keeping them from attaining authenticity and self-actualization.”

He added that Student-centered encourages critical and creative thinking, debate and dialogue on real issues even controversial ones. Students should be encouraged to learn through experience: to seek the truth by asking why, rather than how, to do something.

Acknowledging the ideas about education in Cambodia that teachers follow only the books, Mr. Pok Chandarith, 41, a permanent member of advisory council of Intarak Devy Youth, said that he would agree that only small group of teachers did read books in class and ask students to write on the board.

“They should follow student-centered approach that students are more active than teachers,” he adds, “To provide the lessons, teachers have to have clear plan of teaching and try to impose students to ask question, discussion, and explain to other classmates.”

Te Lay, a Tesol Programme Manager at Educational Development Institute, explains, “Although the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports have imposed the student-centered approach already, the practice is in limited due to the lack of knowledge, human resource, equipment, and Inspiration of teachers, according to our research.”

He requested that school should be provided more hour for teacher to teach both theory and practice, more course to train teacher skills, and more equipment to qualify our educational system.

To get the respond to this request, LIFT has been trying to contact with Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports, but failed to get comments.

Besides from teaching the theory and practice, Prof. Pou Sovachana adds his comment, “Teachers should also provide extra information to understand the in-depth story, ideas about life, morality and respect.” He adds, “Although the students have knowledge and they able to use it, it will be useless if they lack morality.”

For sure, not all subject require practice, and not all practice is good education. In Cambodia, teachers have such that kind of education style (not practice) for ages, and it is not bad because this education encourage students to receive a large number of information, techniques, ideas, and theories. 

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