Cambodia will partner with 17 other countries around the world to train teachers, educate students and develop local expertise in fields and careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known collectively as STEM).

The broad purpose of these efforts is to help prepare the next generation of Cambodian youth for work in what is known conceptually as “Industry 4.0,” or the fourth industrial revolution, wherein traditional sectors such as manufacturing will be augmented through digitalisation and the use of information technology.

Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch told The Post on December 21 that Cambodian representatives had met with delegates from countries around the world, including the US, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

The topic of discussion was a proposed online education programme to provide STEM training for Cambodian students in order to help them navigate the “Industry 4.0” job market armed with the latest knowledge and technical skills.

This new initiative will mark the first occasion where Cambodia has cooperated with developed countries for the purposes of online education.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has made it possible to attend many online meetings, and much of the discussion was related to STEM and 4.0. Cambodia needs skilled and talented people to compete in the market of the future,” Touch said.

In order to achieve this goal, Touch said Cambodia needs to train more teachers.

The Ministry of Education has been trying for some time now to encourage an increase in the number of Cambodians with training and expertise in STEM fields so that the country can reach the stage where it can compete in this area with the rest of the world.

“At this point we are still discussing the details, so there’s no plan completed yet, but on December 23 we will begin to cooperate online and exchange curriculum [with the participating countries] and then later we will start a joint training programme for Cambodian students with the help of these 17 countries,” Touch said.

Hean Samboeun, director of the Cyber University and Multimedia Centre at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, said it would be a positive development for Cambodia to collaborate with developed countries in an online training programme for STEM fields.

He pointed out, though, that some subjects are more difficult to teach than others because of technical and material requirements.

“There are many STEM subjects, some of which are possible and some may pose some challenges related to technology. At this stage, we are making progress by training teachers, and then eventually they will begin teaching students,” he said.

Im Sothy, a technology specialist and executive director of the Youth Council of Cambodia, welcomed the opportunity for Cambodians to participate in STEM training with the assistance of developed countries since they have access to the most advanced technologies.

However, he said that if youth are selected to participate in online education, it should be done with transparency, accountability and equal opportunity for all applicants, who should demonstrate a good ability with technology in order to receive training because most young people do not understand or use the relevant technology.

“I think when there are equal opportunities and equal competition between the rich family’s children and children of the poor in terms of training or advancement, it is a good thing and it improves society,” he said.