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Pilot program to test use of scientific calculators in schools

Pilot program to test use of scientific calculators in schools

Some professors question wisdom of using calculators, arguing that over-reliance on machines among students doesn't add up.

HOW MANY STUDENTS?

Roughly 200 students will be allowed to participate in the pilot program - 50 at four different institutions - all of which are located in Phnom Penh. The pilot program will last for an estimated one term before officials attempt to gauge its success. 

EDUCATION officials plan to train students at four Phnom Penh schools in how to use scientific calculators in February or March as part of a pilot program to assess whether the use of scientific calculators should be widespread in high schools and universities.  

In each of the four institutions - the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the National Institute of Education, Sisowath High School and another school yet to be selected - 50 students will be allowed to use scientific calculators for one semester, Chan Roath, director of the Department of Scientific Research at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, said in a Tuesday interview with the Post.

It could help...   but it could also reduce the quality of education .

Chan Roath said a Japanese technology company would provide the calculators and train students in how to use them.  
Currently, Cambodia is one of three Asean countries - along with Myanmar and Laos - that do not allow the use of scientific calculators in schools, Chan Roath said.

Some officials are reluctant to introduce scientific calculators on a large scale because they fear their use will detract from students' mathematical knowledge.

"It could help students calculate quickly, but it could also reduce the quality of education because everyone might think they do not need to study and could instead just turn to their calculators," he said.

The ministry will hold a conference at the end of the pilot program to assess what effect the calculators had on student learning.

 If scientific calculators were to be widely distributed, education officials would also need to train instructors - who currently do not incorporate them into their lessons - in how to use them, Chan Roath said.

Lav Chhiv Eav, a rector and math professor at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said he had his doubts about the program, in part because the calculators cost about US$20 each, meaning some students would not be able to afford one.

He also said the program would be unnecessary at the Royal University, which, though it does not allow the general use of scientific calculators, does teach maths students how to use them for basic operations.

He also said calculator use would hinder student learning. "We want them to use their brains," he said. 

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