ONE option for people who want an emphasis on the English language is the English Language Training Institute (ELT), which is on Street 136 just off Norodom Boulevard and is co-located with Cambodian International University.
Both are owned by the Khmer-Chinese Pang family and both have a focus on life skills based around fluency in English. The ELT group of schools has three libraries, an elementary school called EESS, three buildings and a new centre opening in September in Tuol Kork.
According to ELT general manager Sean Pang, the emphasis is to meet people’s needs to communicate in English.
“We believe that English is one of the main things that will help people with their future,” Pang said.
Pang, who spent 10 years in St Paul, Minnesota, sees ELT’s role as filling in the gaps in an environment of busy parents and students who have not yet decided what direction their future should take.
“Parents are so busy, sometimes they don’t pay enough attention to their kids,” Pang said.
“We have kids who approach us and find so much relief when they have someone to listen to them. We can’t blame the parents because they are very busy,” he said.
ELT offers a Life Management course, which Pang says teaches people how to manage stress, peer pressure and money.
“Not just young people, but many working professionals also take this course,” he said.
Pang is one of three brothers, all of whom work there.
“I’m very proud of ELT,” Pang said.
“We have been established for more than a decade. Wherever you go right now, you can see a lot of students who study here, and whenever you go most people will know ELT.”
Each 10-week term at ELT has a list price of US$140, but if enrollment is done on time, there is a 10 percent discount which ends up with a cost of $120.
Scholarships are also available, depending on ability and need, according to Pang.
“Each term 50 to 60 people study for free on 100 percent scholarships. We also have discounts for people who sponsor orphans and other cases from 20 to 50 percent discounts. We try to focus on not only business – but we want to focus on results and human resources. If the students are not serious, they won’t be able to help develop Cambodia.”
Pang said it is not possible at ELT for people to buy their way through school with money – they actually have to do the work.
“We have had people who approached us to buy degrees before, but we won’t do that,” he said.
Another ELT emphasis is counseling students and opening the doors for study abroad – especially in the United States.
“We send a lot of kids to study abroad – so if you’re a student, and you really want to study abroad, let us know, we’ll work with you and we will help you find the options, a school to fit your budget, and what’s a new life in a whole new world for you going to be like. We help a lot of students go to America,” Pang said.
“If students have the passion to go study abroad, money may not be the only problem,” he said.
“We know exactly what different universities offer, and can recommend what their options are. The counseling is free with tuition.”
Since Pang himself lived and studied for 10 years in Minnesota, he is honest with his students about the realities of leaving Cambodia for a whole new life of study overseas.
“There are pros and cons of leaving to study abroad because you are missing a part of being with your family. For example, I got a good education from the US, but the bad part of it is I was away from my parents. It was a new life and a new world.”
The counseling Pang is proud of includes helping students distinguish between wants and needs.
“Do you really need that camera?” he asks a student.
“If you really need it, okay buy it for work, but if you want something fancy you might want to think wisely if that is what you want to do or not.”
Another service Pang and ELT staff provide is trying to find a solution in the differences between parents’ desires and their children’s’ desires.
“Some parents put pressure on their kids. Maybe the father wants the student to be a lawyer, but the student wants to study IT. And I say to the student – how about you can go to two schools: in the morning you can go to law school and then you can go to IT in the afternoon, and you can have both. Then they come to a solution and then they are happy and the problem is solved.”
While most of the students at ELT come from ordinary Cambodian families, neither terribly rich nor terribly poor, there are a lot of students from other nationalities.
“We focus on Cambodian-born students, but we also have Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese students. All of the curriculum – we make it match with the Cambodian school curriculum. Most of the books are from the US, so we use English. The only Khmer language that we use is to help them, but everything is pretty much all in English,” Pang said.
ELT also offers paid part-time jobs for students who can work right there at the ELT campus, sometimes in the accounting or other departments, depending on the student’s interest.
“If a student goes here, and if they want to get some experience, we can give on-the-job training that they can work here and get paid as well.”
Pang sees English as essential for young people in the age of the internet. “If you can’t use the internet, it seems like you can’t walk, seems like you are blind.
“Mainly ELT focuses on English because people need English to communicate. These days we have a lot of kids coming in from other countries. The language kids communicate in besides Khmer is English. Students can come and learn how to write a resume. “It seems like they never have done writing before. The writing skill and grammar – those are the skills that they need.”
The four “micro skills” ELT emphasises are writing, reading, speaking and listening. “We have beginners who start from ABCs. Most kids will start at about four years old. And we have the adults, who come to study ABCs as well, but we put them in a different class.”
The Elementary and Secondary School is called EESS and has between 700 and 800 students. Bachelor of Arts and Associates Degrees in Business, English, IT, Law and other subjects are offered at Cambodia International University on the same campus as ELT on Street 136 in Phnom Penh.
Their website is www.elt.edu.kh.