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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bringing teachers back home

THERE is a teacher drain from Cambodia’s rural countryside to Phnom Penh and other urban centres. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is trying to stop it with various initiatives and policies, but unless economic opportunities in the Kingdom’s more remote areas are improved, the flight of educators to the city will continue.

The lack of teachers is a national problem, with one teacher for every 41 students in the Kingdom, but the shortage is particularly severe in rural and remote areas, where there is one teacher for every 50 students. “Ideally, we would have 40 students per class, but now we have some classes with 65 students because we can’t get more teachers at our school,” said Phan Sophea, a secondary school principal in Kandal province.

The situation differs in each province, but as you move away from the town centres there is a widespread drop in educational performance. “In Preah Vihear town we have many students and schools for them to go to, but sometimes at schools in more remote areas we have to find untrained members of the community to teach,” said Ouk Boreyrun, provincial education director for Preah Vihear province.

We want more
The Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), which counts its members at 3,900, has been lobbying for a raise in teachers’ salaries since its inception in 2001. Despite the government’s measures of increasing teachers’ salaries by 20 percent each year, Rong Chhun, the president of CITA, says that salaries are not high enough for teachers in remote areas to maintain a decent living.

“They work for four hours a day as public school teachers, and then there is no other opportunity for income. They can’t feed their family on US$35 to $45 a month,” he said. “In Phnom Penh there are many opportunities for extra work and study. If they want to get teachers to go to the rural areas, they need to compensate them somehow.”

At a CITA teachers rally in Phnom Penh on October 5 that coincided with World Teachers Day, 250 educators from 15 provinces demanded a salary increase to 1 million riels (US$244) per month. “When our stomachs are hungry, we cannot teach because we have no power; the government should pay more attention to improving teachers’ lifestyles,” said Phat Theavy, representing teachers from Prey Veng.

At a press conference later that day, ministry officials said that calls for an improved standard of living for provincial teachers have not gone unheard, but that paying teachers 1 million riels a month is unfounded when compared to changes in the economy. According to Thaong Borath, director of the Education Ministry’s Department of Personnel Affairs, payments of between $10 and $15 were given to some 25,454 teachers in remote areas to compensate them for the inaccessibility of their work location. The ministry has also instituted programmes to encourage Teacher Training Centre graduates to head back to their homeland.

Going home for good
Through a partnership with the United States Education Programme (USEP), 300 new teachers have been placed in remote primary schools in Mondulkiri, Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces in the last two years through the 9+2 program. USEP located candidates in lower secondary school (7-9 grade) and provided financial support and tutoring for students to finish grade 9 and attend teacher training colleges. In return, the young educators promised to return to teach at their childhood primary school.

Also beginning this year, teachers who commit to working in Cambodia’s remote areas will not have to wait to become full-fledged teachers and receive their full salaries, as do most graduates of the training centres, who wait seven to 12 months for a salary.

“Many of our students are going to the provinces because they can get their salary seven months earlier than if they stay in Phnom Penh,” said Dr Im Koch, director of the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.

The government provides full financial support for students to study at training centres, requiring two years of methodology training for primary school teachers and a year of study at the national institute and a specialised degree for secondary school teachers at public schools.
In return, teachers must return to their home provinces to teach for two years.

Teachers wanted for hire
During his inauguration speech at the new Pursat High School, Im Sethy, Cambodia’s minister of education, youth and sport said Cambodia was in need of 5,000 new teachers.

The ministry wouldn’t say where these teachers will come from, but perhaps a better question is, where will they go.
“Cambodia has enough teachers for all of its students,” explained Rong Chhun.

“The government just needs to find a way to spread them out equally across the country.” Additional reporting by Tep Nimol.
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Cambodia as a player in education

By John O'leary


Universities are set to play a key role in Cambodia’s economic development, national leadership and its move forward in globalisation.

Asian higher education is on the rise and looks set to take the global stage. Global university rankings show this growth, and even the European Union’s education commissioner says the famous names that dominate such exercises should look to their laurels if they are not to be overtaken by the tigers from the East.

But these plaudits apply to a relatively small proportion of universities in relatively few countries. Although spending on higher education has been rising sharply, with 10 percent growth in student numbers each year in East Asia, the poorer countries risk being left behind.

The first Asian university rankings, which were published by QS earlier this year, were dominated by Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and China. There were no universities in the top 200 from Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos, and even Thailand had only three representatives in the top 100.

Higher education has become more of a international phenomenon, with millions of students crossing borders to take a degree, universities (both public and private) establishing campuses in other countries, and global networks springing up to promote collaboration in research. Governments are desperate to have universities that are “players” in this new world, which they see as vital to prosperity as a knowledge economy.

So how realistic is it for a country like Cambodia to harbour such ambitions? What sort of a higher education system should it develop to serve the needs of its people and boost the economy?

The gap between Cambodia and the leading Asian nations in terms of participation and spending on higher education is so large that trying to compete on the international stage would surely be a waste of money. The latest UNESCO statistics showed fewer than 3 percent of Cambodians completing tertiary education, compared with more than 30 percent in South Korea and 20 percent even in the Philippines. Spending per student was less than $1,000 a year, compared with $5,000 in Malaysia.

Of course, the destruction of its universities and the loss of a generation of academics under the Khmer Rouge make Cambodia a special case.

During the Khmer Rouge regime, teachers and educated role models were killed, schools were destroyed and books were burned. Although new teachers have been trained and schools have been rebuilt, there continue to be a variety of obstacles that challenge the country’s ability to provide access to quality education. Initiatives like the World Bank’s commitment of $15 million to support public and private universities acknowledge the need for extra investment in the country’s higher education. Agreements like the one signed by the University of Texas at San Antonio with the Royal University of Phnom Penh and Pannasastra University will also help to strengthen the system.

Universities elsewhere in Asia and farther afield are increasingly keen to recruit international students. The University of Bedfordshire, in the United Kingdom, for example, offers scholarships to Cambodians of “high academic standing”.

A realistic target for the country’s universities, therefore, would be to keep more of the brightest students at home, as well as take more students in total when funding allows. As per-capita income and the numbers completing secondary education grow, the demand for higher education is certain to increase. The university system can make an important contribution to Cambodia’s development, particularly in areas such as agriculture and tourism, without worrying about international rankings.

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Cambodia approves law of non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical weapon

Cambodian National Assembly on Wednesday approved the law of non-proliferation of nuclear weapon, bio-chemical weapon, radioactive weapons and chemical weapon.

"This law bans on producing, recycling, transferring, transporting the kinds of these weapons in the country, and we will create authority for controlling and investigating the chemical substances as well as a laboratory for observing these substances in the country," said Tea Banh, deputy prime minister and minister of national defense. "We do not want to see these substances destroying our people's heath and lives," he added.

"We need peace and good environment in the country and we experienced the disaster of the weapons in the world," said Oeung Noeng, chairman of the committee of national defense, interior, investigation and clearance of the National Assembly.

"We have purpose to set up a region of ASEAN without the nuclear weapon," said Cheap Yeam, chairman of the audition, banking and finance. "When we have this kind of law, we will show other countries, United Nations, and IEAE (International Energy Agency) that we do not produce these weapons."

"We also show them that we are not the threat of regional security and the war monger," he said, adding that "our country is poor; we need the help from donor and other friend countries to develop the country and we do not have abilities to produce this kind of weapons."

He also expressed his concerns for some countries in the world that produced nuclear weapons because they could destroy the world and threaten security of the world.

He added this law follows to Cambodian constitution in 1993 and ASEAN charter, and International Conventions that Cambodia is signatory state.

Source: Xinhua
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ASEAN chief: Thai-Cambodian issue unlikely to be aired at ASEAN Summit

BANGKOK, Oct 14 (TNA) - ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan on Wednesday said he did not believe that Cambodia will raise the border conflict with its neighbour Thailand at the upcoming summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the end of this month.

The ASEAN chief commented after French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) earlier quoted Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong as saying Prime Minister Hun Sen will raise the Thai border spat at an upcoming regional summit despite opposition from Thailand, which is hosting the meeting.

Mr Hor Namhong however said "Because there is no answer from Thailand to my official proposal, Cambodia still considers that Prime Minister Hun Sen can raise the dispute in the ASEAN summit."

He said that Cambodia is willing to raise the issue in other international bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, and accused Thailand of delaying the resolution of the dispute.

Thailand will host the 15th ASEAN Summit and its related summits in Phetchaburi's Cha-am district and Prachuab Khiri Khan's Hua Hin district October 23 to 25.

The ASEAN chief said that if any country member feels that the Thai-Cambodian border dispute affects ASEAN's image, the foreign ministers from other eight country members (except from Thailand and Cambodia) can raise the issue for discussion at the regional pact meeting.

"I know the Cambodian stance only from news report. I think that the border spat is the issue between the two countries which can be agreed at bilateral talks," said Mr Surin, "It should not be raised in the ASEAN Summit."

The ASEAN chief added that he is not worried that the summit will be overshadowed by the Thailand-Cambodia conflict, saying that ASEAN members are mature and willing to solve problems.

He said if anyone of either party raises this topic at the meeting, it will be a good opportunity to help find appropriate solutions to the conflict.

Tensions between the two neighbouring countries, renewed when Mr Hun Sen said he had ordered his troops to shoot any Thai stepping on Cambodian soil, after protesters of Thailand's yellow-shirted Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy (PAD) rallied in Si Sa Ket province last month opposing Cambodia's plan to build new structures in the contested 4.6 square kilometre zone surrounding Preah Vihear.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva shunned Mr Hun Sen's threat, saying it is his style to make international headlines and for his internal political benefit.

Cambodian Foreign minister said early this week that he wished to propose the dispute over the area around the ancient Preah Vihear temple be included in the agenda of the ASEAN summit and in other international meetings.

The Thai foreign affairs ministry however said the dispute should not be internationalised or raised at the regional pact meeting and Thailand will continue to seek a peaceful solution with Cambodia via a bilateral mechanism. (TNA)

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S Korean President to visit Cambodia next week

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will pay a two-day state visit to Cambodia next week at the invitation of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to a statement released Wednesday by Cambodia's Foreign Ministry.

The statement said Lee will arrive in Cambodia on Oct. 22-23 and will be received in the Royal Audience by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni and will also receive courtesy calls by Chea Sim, president of the Senate and Heng Samrin, president of the National Assembly.

Lee Myung-bak is scheduled to hold bilateral talk with Hun Sen and will witness the signing of two agreements by Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong and his counterpart Yu Myung-hwan, minister of foreign affairs and trade of the Republic of Korea.

The two agreements are on extradition and framework arrangement concerning loans from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) for 2009-2012.

Also, during the visit, five other documents are expected to be singed: agreement on cooperation between the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce; agreement on co-production of broadcasting programs; MOU on cooperation for the field of mineral sector; MOU on cooperation for joint mineral exploration and MOU concerning the cooperation on investment in forest plantation and climate change.

At a round-table discussion organized Wednesday by Club of Cambodian Journalists, Lee Kyung-soo, South Korean ambassador to Cambodia told reporters that Republic of Korea has considered Cambodia as one of the main dialogue partners and one of the recipient countries of South Korean grants and loans in the form of ODA.

He said since Cambodia has tied diplomatic relation with South Korea in 1997, many forms of bilateral cooperation have been achieved including the investment, culture, economic and tourism.

Lee Myung-bak is expected to depart Tuesday for Vietnam, where he will meet with the country's President Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

And after Cambodia, Lee will also attend the annual East Asia Summit to be held in Hua Hin, Thailand, back-to-back sessions of the 15th ASEAN Summit set on Oct. 23-25.

Source:Xinhua
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S Korea's Hyundai Group to build vehicle assembling factory in Cambodia: ambassador

Hyundai Company of South Korea will build a vehicle assembling factory in Cambodia, South Korean ambassador to Cambodia said on Wednesday.

"The vehicle assembling factory will be opened in coastal Koh Kong Province," Lee Kyung Soo, South Korean ambassador here told reporters in a news conference on the state visit of South Korea president Lee Myung Bak to Cambodian on Oct. 22-23.

The press conference is organized by the club of Cambodian Journalists.

But Lee Kyung Soo did not give the details about the amount invested by Hyundai in Cambodia. Deputy Director General of Hyundai Group already paid a visit to Cambodia a few days ago, LeeKyung Soo said.

The press release from South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh said that Camko Motor Company is building a Hyundai car assembly factory in Koh Koh province, about 370 km southwest of capital Phnom Penh. It covered land area of 165,000 square meters with two facilities for maintenance and dormitory. It can assemble 3,000 cars per year and the type of car including SUV, Van and other cars.

According to Lee Kyung Soo, South Korea's investment in Cambodia last year was worth about 1,238 million U.S. dollars, but for the first six months of this year, the investment decreased about 58 percent compared with the same period of last year because of the global financial crisis. South Korea's investment in Cambodia focuses on the rubber plantation, mines, energy, oil and gas, real estate, tourism, construction, agri-industry, Lee Kyung Soo said.

For the bilateral trade between the two countries in 2008, Cambodia imported about 309 million U.S. dollars worth of products from South Korea and Cambodia's export to South Korea about 294 million U.S. dollars. So far this year the two-way trade volume is worth about 120 million U.S. dollars. Both sides will try to foster more trade volume, Lee Kyung Soo said.

Source:Xinhua
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