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Higher education in govt spotlight

Higher education in govt spotlight

education officials met the Council of Ministers' Sok An August 1 to discuss a law

that will establish and regulate a new body to accredit higher education institutions.

The proposed Accreditation Committee of Cambodia will set standards to ensure quality

of the education bodies.

That should meet the demands of education professionals who complain the sector is

currently unaccountable. The proposed law, which has met with some opposition, is

likely to be approved with changes this year, said secretary of state at the Ministry

of Education Pok Than.

The draft suggested a committee chaired by the Minister of Education, four Cambodians,

and two other members, who could be foreign but must have experience in accreditation

programs.

The last point proved controversial to some ministers, and Pok Than said the foreigners

could be advisors instead.

The accreditation law is a requirement of the World Bank, which is set to provide

a $30 million loan to improve higher education. Once the law is promulgated the Bank

will release the money.

The changes are likely to be approved by the Council of Universities early August,

after which the amended draft will go to the CoM, and finally Prime Minister Hun

Sen.

Higher education was discussed by national and international experts in Phnom Penh

conference on accreditation and higher education between July 31 and August 2.

Australia's former education minister John Dawkins, who spent 18 months studying

Cambodia's system for the World Bank, told attendees Cambodians needed to improve

quality assurance.

"I certainly don't want to impose some new foreign system on Cambodia,"

he said, adding that it was possible to leave the system unchanged, but doing so

would affect the country's competitiveness. It would also result in hundreds of high

cost institutions with "indifferent standards" whose students would be

given little credibility by employers.

"The potential for chaos will be great, and the potential for disappointing

students and their parents will be enormous," he said.

Attendee Chhang Roth, a quality assurance official and an English teacher at the

Royal University, said Cambodian participation at the conference was very active,

but he noticed many stakeholders, such as parents, students and teachers, were not

involved in policymaking.

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