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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Australia excites Cambodia for STEM education

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Sophea Aing, Australia Awards Alumnus, putting her skills into practice as a Medical Affairs Manager with GlaxoSmithKline (Cambodia). AUSTRALIA AWARDS CAMBODIA

Australia excites Cambodia for STEM education

We use innovations in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) everyday.

We update our Facebook status on smartphones using Wi-Fi. Farmers use irrigation technology to improve crop yields. We rely on new surgical techniques to keep us healthy. And advances in engineering are helping create the cities of the future.
Innovations in STEM are critical to Cambodia’s future. The Cambodian economy is growing and diversifying and it will need a workforce that is highly skilled in STEM fields to support this.

“As a strong development partner, Australia is committed to supporting STEM innovations in Cambodia,” Australian Ambassador Angela Corcoran said.

“One aspect of our support is helping Cambodians become experts in STEM fields of study.”

Each year, the Australian Government offers scholarships for Cambodians to travel, live and learn in Australia’s world-class academic and scientific institutions. The Australia Awards Scholarships program is a life-changing opportunity for Cambodian students to complete a Masters or PhD.

In 2015 and 2016, Australia offered a total of 95 scholarships to Cambodians. Some of these students are now studying in Australia and others are preparing for their studies in a range of fields. A number will be studying STEM subjects – biomedical sciences, agricultural science and molecular biology just to name a few.

These students are great ambassadors for their country, promoting Cambodia’s rich society, culture and history. The students also value the opportunity to experience the Australian way of life – multicultural, vibrant cities, friendly locals and fantastic food!

Australian universities are at the cutting-edge of science and technology. Australian scientists have contributed to technological advances around the world, such as Google Maps, through to major medical breakthroughs, such as the bionic ear.

Australian education also focuses on inspiring confidence, building real-world skills, encouraging independent thinking and enabling students to voice their own ideas and use their own judgement.

Sophea Aing, an Australia Awards alumnus, recently completed her Master of Biotechnology at RMIT University in Melbourne. “My degree has given me the knowledge and skills to teach aspiring young Cambodians at the University of Health Sciences and to work with the Ministry of Health to better manage antibiotic resistance, which is a challenge in Cambodia,” Sophea said.

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Rebecca Watts, New Colombo Plan alumni, demonstrates the benefits of solar energy in rural Cambodia. Photo supplied

The education relationship between Australia and Cambodia is not all one way. Hundreds of Australian university students are choosing to come to Cambodia to study and work with the support of an Australian government initiative, the New Colombo Plan (NCP).

These Australian students are working alongside Cambodians to share knowledge and skills that are making a real difference to local communities.

Earlier this year, the NCP helped 16 biomedical engineering students from the University of New South Wales travel to rural hospitals across Cambodia. The students worked with local hospital staff to fix broken medical equipment such as surgical lamps, anaesthetic machines and other life-saving medical equipment.

One of the students, Ojasvi Chavali, said that during his placement with the Koh Kong Referral hospital he felt “like a doctor – a doctor for machines.”

Some NCP participants are choosing to return to Cambodia to continue the good work they started.

With the support of the NCP, Rebecca Watts from the Australian National University first came to Cambodia to attend the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Design Summit. After she graduated, Rebecca returned to Cambodia to take up a role as Project Facilitator of the Appropriate Technology Initiative for EWB.

Rebecca spends a lot of time in rural areas educating and providing remote communities with access to solar energy.

“Being in Cambodia has opened my eyes to the things you can do as an engineer and how I can use the skills from my degree to make a real difference,” Rebecca said.

“I’m also passionate about promoting opportunities for women in engineering – wouldn’t it be great if we could change the stereotype of what a real engineer is, from the guy wearing steel-capped work boots to a women working in a rural refugee camp?”
If you are interested in applying for an Australia Awards Scholarships and Australia Awards-Endeavour Scholarships for study in Australia in 2018, applications will open in early 2017 and mid-2017, respectively. Further information is available on our website: www.australiaawardscambodia.org and https://internationaleducation.gov.au/endeavour.

If your organisation is interested in offering internship and mentorship opportunities through the New Colombo Plan, further information is available at https://ncpbusiness.dfat.gov.au

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