The Post recently visited the newly built campus of Harrods International Academy (HIA) in Boueng Keng Kang 1 to talk to the Principal, Philippa Barson to see how opportunities have improved for students in the Kingdom, and to discuss how to best prepare oneself for the daunting prospect of entering secondary education.
Barson has “been in education for about sixteen years now, six years in Southeast Asia, and three going on four in Cambodia.”
In that time how has she seen the secondary education landscape change in Cambodia?
One of the biggest changes is “the competition between schools”, this competition means schools are striving to provide the best facilities they can.
“The use of technology is improving … here [HIA] for example we have scheduled 3D printing, we have robotics, we have computer coding, we really give the kids the opportunity to enter the workforce with all sorts of possibilities”.
Because of the increase in subjects and courses, children are getting a much broader education.
This is a great thing for students as they get to decide what interests them, but now they have a myriad of options. Students “definitely have a lot more say in their own futures now”.
Barson was also quick to point out that, “The Belt and Road Initiative from the Chinese president in 2013, has altered the educational sector in Cambodia for the better.”
Cambodian education is now a very exciting place to be as “the economical changes, improvement in lifestyle and disposable income has made private education far more accessible to a lot more families than ever before”.
With that accessibility comes the option of international study as some Cambodian schools, such as HIA, adhere to internationally recognised certifications.
One of the pitfalls that students and parents may find difficult to negotiate is deciding what subjects they would like to study. Barson took us through one such scenario, and how her school manages the situation,” a few weeks ago we had a girl in tears because her mum and dad wanted her to go one way and her heart is in a different direction … we suggested that she sit down with a school councilor, and go through exactly what it is she wants,[we advised her] to prepare an argument to present”
A measured approach to parent and student disagreements is crucial to foster an engaged student.
When navigating secondary school, students “have to pick the courses that will support their career path, and meet their university entrance criteria.”
It is essential that students keep this front of mind as they proceed through secondary school, a focus on areas of talent and interest will benefit the student in years to come.
Ultimately the opportunities outweigh the pitfalls at this time in the Cambodian educational landscape.
For students and parents preparing to transition in to Cambodian secondary school Barson suggests that “choosing the right curriculum is very important … because the beauty of the right curriculum is that it will serve you well and give you options later is critical”.