Seerano Johnpov, a Grade 10 student at the New Generation School at Phnom Penh’s Preah Yukunthor High School, has achieved a spectacular academic victory, claiming a gold medal at the 2023 Global IT Challenge for Youth with Disabilities in the eLifeMap category. The competition was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in October.

Born in July 2008, the 15-year-old currently lives in Boeung Trabek commune with his parents and older brother. As he was born with paralysis in both arms, he faces many daily challenges. Despite this, his friends describe him as naturally funny, and always ready to offer assistance.

In the classroom, he remains quiet and attentive, but when he returns home, he enjoys nothing more than playing games with his friends.

Prior to joining the New Generation School (NGS), he attended Sovannaphum School. Due to his disability, he relies on his family members to accompany him to school.

Ahead of the Global IT Challenge, Seerano was invited to take part by officials from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. He and a group of fellow competitors were accompanied to the competition – held in Abu Dhabi from October 24 to 28 – by two ministry officials.

He explained the format of the contest where he triumphed.

“The eLifeMap category is a competition where participants are provided with a specific topic and tasked with finding relevant answers and information. Participants are permitted to use various resources, including websites like Wikipedia,” he said.

 He said that even though at just 15, he was one of the youngest competitors – with some entrants being over 20 years old – he made the utmost effort to focus his intellectual prowess and come away with gold.

Seerano said he was really excited to participate in the competition, and focused on his preparation. He began dedicating one hour each day to studying the relevant lessons. 

“I analysed the format of the competition, formulated similar questions, and began my quest to find the answers,” he added.

He reflected on the valuable lessons he gained from the experience, acknowledging the significance of hard work, which played a crucial role in his ability to secure the gold medal.

“Receiving the medal filled me with immense pride,” he added.

The victory was the first for the Kingdom, which has been entering the contest since 2014. He also garnered the appreciation of his competitors, who were astonished by the young man from Cambodia’s prowess. The four nations which earned gold in the eLifeMap category in 2023 were Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Korea.

Seerano’s innate intelligence and strong command of English both played significant roles in his victory. 

“The reason I chose IT is because from an early age, I have been fascinated by interacting with computers and mobile phones. This curiosity drove me to explore further, and gradually, I developed a keen interest in the field,” he said, adding that he aspires to pursue a career in an IT related field.

IT now and in the future

Sam Kamsan, vice principal of the Preah Sisowath High School NGS, addressed the importance of IT, particularly with regard to the coming digital revolution.

“Studying IT is crucial for students. It is a core subject in both the present and the future. In an era dominated by technology, it is essential for schools to adapt curricula to allow students to learn IT, technology, or computer skills. This should begin from the seventh grade, in order to align with the global context.

“In the current era, students need to use technology to support their studies. In developed countries, technology has accelerated learning and research processes. It enables students to access extensive knowledge more efficiently and accurately. With technology, knowledge can be specific and realistic, without relying solely on teachers for information or in-person instruction,” he said.

“At our NGS, the integration of teaching and technology is considered one of the main factors for our students. This emphasis reflects the vital importance of equipping every citizen, who will serve as the human capital and driving force behind a country’s development, with knowledge of technology,” he added.

According to Kamsan, the school’s curriculum focuses on preparing students to compete internationally. To facilitate this, the school places a significant focus on English language acquisition. This enables them to acquire knowledge and experience from other countries while also fostering cross-cultural understanding.

To prepare students for international competitions, the school runs orientation workshops and encourages student clubs, which enable them to better understand international activities, empowering the students to explore and conduct research independently.

Seerano offers valuable advice to students who are considering entering in foreign competition.

“The most important thing is courage. Without it, we lack the necessary drive to engage in such competitions. Courage, therefore, plays a crucial role. We must immerse ourselves in the contests, work diligently, study the required materials, and approaching the examination with a focused mindset,” he said.

In 2023, the Preah Sisowath NGS was awarded 583 medals, 24 trophies, and 105 certificates in domestic and international academic competitions, including the World Scholar’s Cup, as well as math competitions in countries such as South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, UK, and the US.