Kuchsa writing on a 10-year-old whiteboard that was his father's first investment for his five children's education.
on't tell wiz-kid Dy Kuchsa that Cambodia's young scholars aren't ready for international
The 16-year-old Phnom Penh resident has just returned from the International Junior
Science Olympiad (IJSO) in Indonesia with Cambodia's lone gold medal - its first
at the prestigious annual event.
"My family is poor. My country is poor. But never underestimate the ability
of our people, especially the students," Dy told the Post at his parents' one-bedroom
home near the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
The IJSO featured grueling competition between 200 of the brainiest students from
36 countries including England, Russia, Thailand and Taiwan. Two separate committees
evaluated each student's knowledge in the fields of physics, biology and chemistry
through three rounds of testing.
The exhausting three-day examination featured a rigorous three-hour multiple-choice
test, a writing analysis and a laboratory experiment on water absorption performed
before a live audience. Dy scored a total of 79.75 points out of 100 possible and
received one of only 20 gold medals awarded.
Fame has followed. Since winning the prestigious prize, Dy has been interviewed by
Phnom Penh radio stations, featured in newspapers and has made several appearances
According to postings on the most-visited Khmer web site, Khmer Connection, dozens
of Cambodians have stepped forward to praise the efforts of Dy and the other local
students who competed in IJSO. Some overseas Cambodians are talking about establishing
a foundation to support gifted students in their pursuit of education in Cambodia
"Undoubtedly, we are proud of Dy's and the others' accomplishment at IJSO,"
said Puthearorth Kov, 24, a graduate student at the University of Washington's College
of Education in Seattle. "Though early in the stage of dialogue, some of my
colleagues have started brainstorming ideas on what to do next. Ideally, we want
to foster their educational needs, even if that means bringing them to study in the
US or elsewhere."
Though his family is overjoyed with Dy's achievements, and the prospect of support
from overseas, Dy's father still lectures him about maintaining a strict studying
"I do this to all my five kids, not just Kuchsa," said Dy San Thlang, 50.
"Every day, I limit their television habits. They usually study for three to
four hours after school, then read English, French and Khmer literature and do their
homework. In their free time, I urge them to spend it wisely and productively."
Dy is now cramming hard for Cambodia's annual National Science Competition for incoming
high school seniors.
"I am in the tenth grade, so I have over a year and a half to prepare myself
for the competition - I can't stop now," Dy said.
"If I had the opportunity to study abroad, I would select Japan out of all the
countries in the world simply because the country is so technologically advanced.
When I grow up, I want to be an engineer."