The education ministry and partner institutions are discussing plans to promote and support the digital literacy training process in public primary and secondary schools, in response to the growing digitalisation of society and the need to teach students skills that meet human resources needs.

Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron had a meeting with ChildFund Cambodia director Prashant Verma on January 9 over the development of a project to support the process with a digital skills training period. The project aims to highlight the importance of the role of digital literacy in education.

According to the ministry, children in the target schools will achieve 21st century skills by learning basic computer science skills, digital skills, financial literacy, critical thinking skills and technology-aided creativity at their respective grade levels.

“This project will contribute to strengthening the government system from the national level to the schools to be able to support the digitalisation of the education sector, as well as to strengthen internal and informal mechanisms around child safety in target schools and communities,” it said.

The project is a collaboration between the ministry and ChildFund, with the support of Woori Bank Cambodia. It will be implemented for three years in the target schools at both primary and secondary levels in the capital and Kandal province, from March 2023 to the end of February 2026.

Chhort Bunthong, head of the Culture, Education and Tourist Relations Department at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), said the work of strengthening digital education in this context is very important at a time when the global situation is evolving into an increasingly digital world.

“In my personal observation, Cambodia had evolved slowly, but during the Covid-19 period the school closures and remote learning actually helped accelerate Cambodia’s readiness in the field of digital education as it became more urgent,” Bunthong said.

Bunthong said the barriers that hinder Cambodia in the process of building itself up in the field of digital education is that the knowledge most teachers in Cambodia have on the subject is still limited, while some students have digital knowledge but face a shortage of digital education materials, combined with limited internet and telecommunications services in the more rural parts of Cambodia.

He added that in order to reform the digital education system, the government, especially the ministry, needs to conduct thorough research in both the regional and global frameworks to be aware of the real trends in order to survey Cambodia’s education standards in response to the actual situation. It is meant to strengthen the curriculum, capacity of teachers and materials used in classes, and especially to fund a national budget package to carry out the reforms.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun supports the efforts of national leaders in digital literacy training, saying that this is a long-term investment to help Cambodians achieve and actively participate in the nation’s digital economy in the future.

“The obstacles to digital education in the past were that we lacked digital infrastructure. Simply put, we lacked internet access and mobile services that would enable teachers and students’ parents to help children learn online,” said Chanroeun.

“Our people, as well as students, have a very low level of understanding of digital systems. According to the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, only 30 per cent of students have a basic knowledge of the internet,” he said.

He also called on the government and relevant institutions, especially the education ministry, to increase the capacity of teachers and students to ensure that they have the skills to use electronic devices and participate in education through digital systems. In addition, the government and stakeholders need to increase investment in education in this area, such as making digital lesson content richer and more attractive.

Heng Kimhong, head of the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)’s research and advocacy programme, said that strengthening Cambodia’s human resources to respond to the digital age is essential for the Kingdom to respond to the relentlessly evolving situation of global labour market trends, particularly promoting research and innovation that is up to international standards.