Post reporter Cheang Sokha interviewed the new Minister
of Education, Youth and Sport, Kol Pheng, about his views on the future for the education
sector in Cambodia.
What is your vision?
That within ten to fifteen years from now we will have a new generation of youth
embedded with a culture of peace, non-violence, and high moral code of conduct, and
with smiles on their faces.
Youth of the new generation shall be equipped with a healthy body and a strong mental
discipline, otherwise they cannot succeed in life. To reach this goal, we must review
our existing curriculum in primary and secondary education so we can add more time
for moral and civic education. We should reinforce health and physical education
at the primary and secondary schools.
We need the full cooperation of the Ministry of Health, where it can assist us in
teaching our students preventive medicine and proper nutrition for children and young
adults. Our teachers, education inspectors, principals, administrators are also required
to have regular additional training and professional advancement. However, we do
need salary adjustments for our teachers in order to achieve our goal: healthy body,
How will you fight corruption in the education system?
According to information gathered from my predecessors [Pok Than and Im Sethy], in
the past few years there were no real cases of corruption on the Baccalaureate examinations.
I will give my special attention to this issue.
Cheating harms mostly those who cheat. We have to eradicate this culture, by teaching
students and their parents to understand the bad consequences of their actions. We
have to prevent students from cheating from kindergarten age. I will consider establishing
a new department to concentrate on developing tests, examinations, or any other alternatives
How can you improve the quality of education?
Education in Cambodia is not up to international standard although we have received
a lot of assistance since we returned to peace. We need to look into the real issues
our ministry is facing right now: budget constraints, facility constraints, low teachers'
salaries, and not only low, but also late payment of salaries.
The general population growth rate is 2.4 percent per year; 52 percent of our 12
million people are under 21 years of age. So our absorption problem is enormous at
the primary and secondary schools. Our students can attend classes for only about
four hours a day. This is not enough. We need to increase some teaching hours, but
we need also to increase our teachers' salaries or their teaching premium.
The quality of education is directly related to the living conditions of teachers:
their peace of mind. When they are happy they can concentrate more on their teaching.
I will look into all possibilities to find ways to get additional compensation for
our teachers. I know it is not easy, however I will do my best.
All of this depends on our economic growth and development, but we have to find ways
to improve the living conditions of the teachers. The government has already agreed
to increase the salary between 10 and 15 percent a year, but this is not enough to
match the actual cost of living.
I hope that under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen in this mandate we can
push forward for new quality improvement, especially the implementation of "Education
For All", and the "Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government".
Building a good foundation at the primary level is fundamentally important. We have
to train our students to read, and to read, and to read. So I will look for assistance
in order to obtain mobile libraries as well as fixed libraries for each school from
our generous friends who love education. Student volunteers from higher education
could be requested to tutor our primary and secondary students who stand behind the
What is your political background?
I was born in Takeo province in 1939. I joined politics as part of my decision to
serve my motherland after receiving a good education supported by His Majesty the
King during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era.
I joined Funcinpec in 1998. I was a Member of Parliament for Takeo and the Secretary
General of the National Assembly in 1998, during the second mandate of the government.
I believe that the political platform agreed by Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime
Minister Hun Sen will give the Cambodian youth of this generation and the next hope
for a brighter future.