The leadership of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), the Kingdom’s largest public university, have requested additional investment in its infrastructure. The university says it is short of the physical classrooms it needs to implement government plans to digitise the education system.

Responding to questions related to the challenges of higher education institutions that the programme coordinator questioned at the “Education Forum on Digital Education Transformation Towards Digital Economy”, RUPP rector Chet Chealy said about 8,000 students enrol each year, causing a shortage of classrooms.

“I think if $3 million or $4 million is invested, it would have an outsize effect on the students, and would serve the digital transformation,” he added.

The February 27 forum was organised by the education ministry’s Department of Policy in collaboration with the Cambodia Development Resource Institute.

The forum, which had 571 attendees, focused on the post-Covid-19 education system and discussed the digital education system in detail.

Votes were cast on which tasks should be prioritised by the ministry and its partner agencies.

The training of core teachers in digital skills and education systems was selected as the top priority.

The second was the development of a digital curriculum, followed by support for principals, internet access, and then support for digital teaching. The creation of computer labs was assigned the lowest priority.

Chealy expressed his concern that the results of the survey would cause policymakers to eliminate RUPP’s top priority – the creation of physical classrooms.

“I have spoken with the ministry’s General Department of Higher Education and explained that investment in physical infrastructure should be one of the top priorities when it comes to higher education institutes. When the votes were cast, I am afraid it received limited support. I hope the policy makers don’t assign it the same low priority that the forum attendees did,” he said.

Mak Ngoy, director-general of the higher education department, also expressed his disagreement with the priorities that were selected by the forum.

“There were six options, from teachers to labs to curriculums. They decided physical classrooms were the lowest priority? How do they imagine teachers will be trained to teach a digital curriculum without a classroom to instruct them in?” he said.

“Online teaching was a blessing during the pandemic and the resulting closure of schools. However, it also became clear that many of the Kingdom’s teachers require upskilling in digital education,” he added.

Po Kimtho, director-general of the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC), said the institute has been involved in technology teaching and learning since 2012. It has received support from teachers from South Korea, who helped them to develop digital content.

“The digital transformation of the education system is key to the development of Cambodia’s human resources,” he added.

“Of course, once we talk about digital infrastructure, we have to think about high-speed internet. This will need to cover all campuses so it is accessible to all students,” he continued.