The Research Creativity and Innovation Fund (RCI Fund) are assessing 621 proposals from 15 public and private higher educational institutions with faculty members who have applied for funding to write Khmer-language textbooks for use in higher education courses.

A press release from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport said the RCI Fund has sent a letter of response to 13 of the 15 higher educational institutions and is still in the process of examining the applications from the other two institutions.

The press release said four of the higher educational institutions that had all together proposed a total of 196 textbook titles had already provided the RCI Fund with the full documentation required for them which includes a synopsis of each textbook, an outline of the proposed book’s contents with chapter titles and subheadings, and a course description.

This documentation had already been assessed and approved for submission by the science council or education council at each of the higher educational institutions where the aspiring textbook authors were employed.

“The RCI Fund is examining these documents and afterwards expects to be able to go forward with signing agreements to provide financial assistance,” the ministry said.

The ministry’s statement also expressed great appreciation and admiration for the initiative displayed by members of Cambodia’s academic community who stepped forward and submitted hundreds of highly professional and conscientiously prepared textbook proposals when called upon to contribute to this project.

The purpose of the project is to encourage and financially underwrite the authorship of a wide range of Khmer-language textbooks to increase the quantity and quality of Khmer-language academic resources for higher education and to provide equity in study resources written in Khmer for those studying or doing research at an advanced level.

Ministry guidelines state that in principle, all higher educational institutions using Khmer as a primary language of instruction should have Khmer-language textbooks to use as the basis for each subject they teach.

Specifically, these institutions are expected to have at least one Khmer-language title available in each course subject – if such a book exists – and to possess a minimum of 12 copies per title in their library for use by students and faculty. Alternately, they can also make the title available electronically in lieu of owning hard copies.

The ministry’s press release additionally requests that the faculty at Cambodia’s public and private higher educational institutions continue proposing their ideas for textbooks as this will be an ongoing programme until the funds are exhausted or the need for Khmer-language textbooks has substantially been met.

Cambodian Higher Education Association chairman Heng Vanda applauded the work of the RCI Fund.

“We know that currently the education sector is severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. So, the provision of these funds to researchers and academics in higher educational institutions will help them get by while also serving a greater good.”

Education ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said the provision of these funds is an innovative way to meet the educational needs of Cambodian students by directly incentivising the creation of high quality Khmer-language academic resources for use in higher education.

“The goal of the RCI Fund is the promotion of a Khmer-language-based culture of academic research and inspired creativity within Cambodia’s education sector as a necessary response to the demands of the labour market and globalisation,” he said.

The ministries of education and Economy and Finance first announced their plans to establish the RCI Fund to underwrite research and authorship of Khmer-language textbooks for use in higher education on October 19 last year.