In addition to Sala website that makes it easy for high school graduates to find a university to study at as well as providing updates for what scholarships are available, the Sala App has now been developed to give another option. Both have been developed by a group of graduate IT students.

Students in high school or those graduating from 12th grade can find information on university subjects and scholarships on the convenient app.

Song Meily, a student asked Sala App founder Sok Leap for advice on the subject and university she wanted to study at. He was happy to provide her with the information she needed.

“I wanted to study at Limkokwing and I contacted him for advice. I am interested in Business Administration and he explained about a programme that has includes an internship in Malaysia. He even helped me to fill the registration form,” Miley, who is now studying business management at Limkokwing University, told The Post.

“I have loved the subject since I was a child, and the teachers at the school are highly qualified and teach well,” she added.

Students seem to have the same issues selecting subjects and universities that their older compatriots in the 1990s and 2000s experienced, which led Leap to develop his website and app.

Founder explains his own struggle

Leap explained that back in 2000, when he was deciding on a direction for his studies, he found it very difficult. Ten years later, he started his consultation business.

“When I began studying, I chose to focus on IT – with the support of my parents. The skills I acquired have given me the opportunity to develop myself my whole professional life,” he told The Post.

Over the past few decades, Leap has observed that students still have difficulty choosing their favourite subjects and universities, seeming to hesitate after they reach 12th grade. Most of them do not appear to have set clear goals.

“Two decades after I faced the same conundrum, 12th grade students are struggling to make decisions. My business aims to help with the problems I had 22 years ago,” he said.

When asked for his thoughts on the new generation of schools that the government has been establishing in the past few years, Leap said he thought the introduction of new methodology was a welcome change. Still, there are just 11 new generation schools out of more than 12,500 nationwide.

He said few people seem to really get to know themselves, start a career that fits them and continue in a job they love.

This is something that the Sala Enrollment and Sala App aim to solve.

“Based on my own experience I know that first of all, people need to look within themselves. Once they understand what their strongest subjects are they can begin to set realistic goals. The support of the people around them, especially family, is also crucial when it comes to selecting a career. Sala is a place which tries to identify these things and support them – along with their parents and siblings – so they make the right choice,” said Leap.

He said that his team’s assessments are made in two stages. Initially, his team – who are junior or senior students or recent graduates – shared their experiences, by commenting on high school students’ questions.

He added that in the second stage, students share their personal experiences one-on-one. This is an open forum which allows potential students to express their opinions and encourages them to think.

The Sala App also has a private chat function for referrals. High schoolers can ask for advice on what subject and which university they can choose, and find out about tuition fees.

Leap organises one-to-one calls and one-to-one meetings for students to capitalise on what they think they’d like to choose.

Getting to know themselves

“Sometimes students are very unclear about their selection, so we have them take a personality test through the app to give them a little understanding of themselves. When they finish the test, they will have some idea of what kind of problem solver they are, and what kinds of job might be suitable for them,” he said.

He claimed that this type of test is based on a well-known framework that is used to define people’s professional personality. This type of test is ideal for those who seek counseling services through the free private chat function of his app.

“With no clear goal, it is difficult to choose a study path. The Sala app can provide advice and make it easy for them to select the best option for them,” he added.

Sorn Sovannara graduated with a bachelor’s degree and pursued a PowerPoint BL short course at the Institute of Finance and Accounting. He said he had consulted the Sala app to identify the best course of study for him, and they had led him to his current path.

“It was really easy. All the news is on one app. If I wanted to find something out, I would log in and all of the information was right there – without having to search in many locations,” said the recent graduate.

Leap said that people ought to pay closer attention to their futures, and selecting a course of study was a major part of this. He wanted to make sure that students were honest with themselves and did not simply follow the wishes of their parents. Obviously, parents want the best for their children, but whether all children’s personalities fit in with what their parents want is a question.

He said many students will study for a year or two and then opt to change course. This could waste time, money and motivation.

Sala App provides students with information about 54 universities in total. However, 16 of them are constantly updated, while the others are updated every three months, he said.

“We focus on universities in Phnom Penh. We currently work closely with 16 universities, most of them private institutions, although we do work with two or three public schools that have international departments,” he said.

A move to TVET

Leap said he plans to expand his focus on Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET), once the number of students increases.

He said that in the last five years, about 120,000 high school grade students graduated, although only between 25,000 and 30,000 of them went on to higher education. The government strongly encourages students who cannot afford university – or those who fail the exams – to try to access TVET courses.

“If in the future they want to be migrant workers, it is better that have acquired some skills, whether industry specific or a second language. By the end of this year, Sala Enrollment will include the TVET programmes, which cover the whole Kingdom,” he added.

In addition to recommending courses and universities, the Sala App provides additional detailed information on specific subjects, such as IT courses. The app includes educational content for them to learn about IT, computer science, including how to prepare for study and which careers to pursue after graduation.

“In addition to our educational content, we also provide information on the curriculums of each university or institute, including STEM courses and competitions. We also have a wide breath of knowledge regarding scholarships, both national and international,” he said.

With more than 1,000 users, the Sala App, which can be downloaded on both Android and iOS, was launched in late 2021. The website has been running for more than two years.

“The app still has a small number of users, but the website has a large number of visitors,” Leap acknowledged.