Organisers hope a weeklong science and technology camp kicking off in
Phnom Penh on Friday will raise awareness of the importance of the
field to Cambodia's development.
RUPP IT Centre Director Phal Des sets up for the UNESCO Regional Science and Technology Camp Wednesday.
CAMBODIAN youth and their peers from throughout Southeast Asia will take part in a weeklong educational camp starting Friday in Phnom Penh to boost interest in science and technology among Cambodian youth and the country's policymakers.
The second Unesco Regional Science and Technology Camp, which was co-organised by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Unesco, will be hosted at the Royal University of Cambodia's Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Centre.
The organisers have invited 52 students aged 12 to 15 years from Cambodia, Malaysia, East Timor, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore and Brunei to take part.
Phal Des, the director of RUPP's Information Technology Centre, said the Education Ministry selected the best students from high schools throughout the country, including poor rural provinces.
"Science and technology is not only for rich people," he said. "Poor people can do science and technology as well."
A key goal was to educate students of employment opportunities in careers like engineering, he added. "We want students in high school to know there is a future in this field,"he said. "But we also want to encourage the government to make a commitment to science and technology education because it is a key for our country's development."
The students will work on hands-on laboratory activities, including renewable energy kits, such as solar cars and windmills. A creativity workshop will also be held in which they wll design, build, program and test scavenger robots.
The robot is easy to build, said Teresa Diez, a spokeswoman for the education department in Unesco's Cambodia office, but provides students room to express creativity.
On the last day of the camp, a competition will be held in which the students will be graded on their robot's ability to throw ping pong balls into specific holes.
Addressing Cambodia's challenges
Diez said nations and regions face a number of challenges in the quest for sustainable development, such as meeting the Millennium Development Goals, coping with climate change, improving natural resource management and strengthening disaster preparedness.
They needed to develop a strong science and technology base to address these challenges, particularly in terms of human capacity, she said.
"Cambodian kids have been left behind in many aspects of science and technology education, especially when compared to the experiences of kids in developed countries, so it was felt that this was an ideal place to hold the camp," she said.
"We want to raise awareness among policymakers that they need to do something about science and technology education in Cambodia."
She identified the lack of financial resources, curriculum development experience and skilled technical human resources as a key reason students in Cambodia - and many Asean nations - were often excluded from the benefits of the interactive educational and hands-on learning opportunities only available through experimentation and laboratory classes.
"We want them to have their first contact with science and technology so that they are not afraid and so that they realise that with good teachers and trainers they can do whatever they want to do in life," Diez said.
Diez added that governments in the region have tried to boost science and technology education but that cooperation was needed between the private, nongovernment and intergovernmental sectors.
"The government and all partners in Cambodia education need to work in the same direction," she said.
The first Science and Technology camp was held in Brunei Darussalam in December 2006.