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Gov’t pledges to fix higher-ed sector

University students wait in a lecture theatre during a graduation ceremony late last year in Phnom Penh.
University students wait in a lecture theatre during a graduation ceremony late last year in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Gov’t pledges to fix higher-ed sector

In line with its wider reform agenda, the Education Ministry has begun making long-needed changes to higher education, aiming to reduce mismatches between graduates’ skills and employer requirements, increase program quality and ensure the Kingdom’s system is up to international standards by 2030.

During a major education conference yesterday, Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said that while achieving such goals would take time, the government has already set up mechanisms to prioritise higher education, currently one of the most neglected sectors of education development.

Post-secondary institutions receive only around 2 per cent of the ministry’s total budget.

“The education system has gone through various stages of reform but now, this sector continues to face some issues … and the government is addressing them through the Higher Education Vision 2030,” said Chuon Naron at the second EU-Cambodia Higher Education Policy and Cooperation forum.

Released in April 2014, the Higher Education Vision 2030 agenda aims to create a more equitable and accessible higher education program, develop better curricula that meets national and labour market needs, improve teaching, learning and research quality, and establish a governance system for higher education.

“While it’s important to continue advancing the education system as a whole, this new reform agenda is a good step on Cambodia’s part because a better [higher] education system generates economic growth,” said Chin Chanveasna, executive director of the National Education Partnership Cambodia NGO.

Currently, only 15 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds in Cambodia are enrolled in post-secondary institutions, compared to around 30 per cent in more developed ASEAN countries like Thailand and Malaysia, Chuon Naron said.

Although enrolment in 2014 increased to 250,000 students, the minister added that MoEYS is ramping up outreach to high schools to boost enrolment further, especially in the agriculture, science, engineering and education fields.

“There is a huge mismatch because Cambodia is an agricultural country and almost 50 per cent of grads come from business administration . . . and only 3 per cent graduate from agriculture,” Chuon Naron said.

To help prospective students make more informed choices, the Education Ministry will next month start making reforms to the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia, the government’s higher education regulator.

It will focus on developing a more comprehensive evaluation of higher education institutions’ courses, staff, resources, facilities and student track records, instead of only looking into their first two foundation years, as it does currently.

The government also aims to increase higher education institutions’ cooperation with international partners to create new exchanges and scholarship programs.

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