Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PUC University takes pride in English

PUC University takes pride in English

PUC University takes pride in English

CAMBODIA’S largest English-language university is Pannasastra University of Cambodia, which has 26,000 students and runs 650 classes in English per day.

University Vice President Kieng Rotana says Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) is the first university in Cambodia where everything is conducted in English.

PUC has 135 foreign teachers working in English preparation.  

Kieng says English is essential for students who are serious about going on to high-level academic studies because the Khmer language doesn’t have enough complex vocabulary to describe all the complexities of science.

“In the Cambodian language, we don’t have enough vocabulary for technology, for research, teaching material, the internet, library – so we need the English language,” he said.

“I tell students at PUC it is buy one get one free – you pay for your degree and you get your fluency in the English language during your four years,” he said. Kieng says PUC has a student-centered approach.  

“We do a lot of activities in the class – and teacher talking time is only about 30 percent and every teacher asks students to do assignments and group discussions. We get guest speakers from outside and we ask everybody to pass the microphone from one to the other.   “This is a big change compared to the instruction given to my generation,” Kieng said.

“Today’s approach at PUC is different because we ask students to be involved in the activities. We changed from learning by memorising to teaching critical thinking, personal growth, leadership and we change people’s behaviour. You can challenge the teacher now,” he said.

PUC started in 2000 with 100 students and now has 26,000 in eight campuses and in two provinces.

“We are proud of the quality of our university because we teach gender studies and environmental studies as requirements. Our curriculum is changing Cambodians,” he said.

PUC offers video conferencing through five countries – Cambodia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

There are also programmes with California State University, at the Fulton and Long Beach campuses, and with exchange students to learn and work in community service.

Kieng himself was born in Phnom Penh in 1968 and survived the Pol Pot regime. His father had been a teacher and had to work very hard to survive.

“He never said no when they asked him to do things.”

Kieng is the third of seven children in his family, all of whom survived – and they’re all boys except for the youngest, his sister. Kieng has a master’s degree from the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Pannasastra also operates an international high school with more than 700 students.

The PUC student body is very international, with many students having foreign parents working in Phnom Penh.

Nationalities include Singaporean, Korean, Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Indian, Australian, American and others.

“A lot of students come to take our English placement test here. We have an intensive English for Academic Purposes programme including at least five terms, three months per term.”

Many students have to study six or seven years to earn a bachelor’s degree because two years of English preparation is required first.

The native speaker teachers focus on communication skills with speaking and listening, reading and writing. Students are required to study with two teachers, three hours per day for example, 1.5 hours per day from 8 to 9:30 with one teacher and 9:30 to 11 with another.

With initial financial support from USAID, PUC has grown into a Community Service Learning Centre through which students come from the United States and take part in a home-stay programme.

PUC offers bachelors degrees in business, finance, accounting, international relations, engineering, arts and humanities, English and TOSL certification.

“We have seven faculties – but not medicine,” Kieng said.

Pannasastra, which means wisdom, was founded by Dr Kol Pheng, who took his PhD in California.

Tuition costs roughly US$600 per year 

“Our curriculum is more like the American curriculum. We have students from China and Korea as well and our students teach English in Korea, as part of our practicum. Right now we have six students teaching in Korea and we have Korean students learning here,” Kieng said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Kingdom, UN discuss rights

    A year after Cambodia received 198 recommendations from UN member countries, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-Cambodia) met with the Cambodia Human Rights Committee (CHRC) to discuss following-up on the Kingdom’s third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and