Cambodia—a country with no scientists

Young Cambodian primary school students

Japanese are doubtless worldwide renowned for their acute uniqueness in pioneering, innovating and creating the sophisticated level of technology. The revolutionary emergence that has completely altered the image of Japan is their unprecedented step they took in the revolutionizing and inventing robot whose role had profoundly marked the major turning point in the history of humanity. Since then, Japanese have been highly regarded as one of wisest human beings on planet earth, and this really owes much to those significant breakthroughs they have been achieving throughout decades. Undoubtedly, Japanese are still gaining their momentum in moving forward.

The same thing does not happen in Cambodia. Cambodia, if considering the merit of her technological success and achievement over last decades until now, it’s crystal clear that it is perceived as one of the poorest countries with a desperate shortage of well-rounded individuals to help earn the national fame and propel this tiny country from the fringe into one of the prestigious nations like Japanese have been doing so far. Apparently, It is becoming rare to find Cambodian scientists, engineers and other technicians who are scientifically and technically sophisticated. Because of this gap, there has been a myth allegedly saying the inadequacy of those Japanese-like men can be attributed to our natural inferiority that we Cambodian are born with this inherent limitation.

But hold on, does this assumption make sense?

This myth, however, that a particular person is born intellectually superior to others had already been dispelled by the scientifically proven study and research, and it’s believed that people are merely alike in terms of their intelligence despite the fact that there is somewhat of rare oddness.

The question breaks out, stating why Cambodia cannot find its own qualified technicians, scientists and engineers after striving hard for almost three decades. The blame must not be put on either our genes or nature, but other external key factors worth analyzing critically.

Apparently, Cambodia’s education system is really going on the wrong track, and it is serving to kill students’ innate creativity, intelligence and potential which are far more influential than they appear to be. Personally speaking, there are three main contributory factors that are playing roles in impeding young Cambodians’ intelligence development, and murdering theirs: Poor quality of education, limited number of specialized universities, and most notably, low related-field employment opportunity. To combat these major problems, the government itself is obliged to play a prominent role in surmounting these through the following measures.

First and foremost, improving the effectiveness of primary and secondary education is of paramount importance, and should be first put at the top of the agenda. In Cambodia, primary school is perceived to be a trivial matter. Young kids are discouraged to love science subjects since they enter the school due to the severely disorganized education system, corruption and other related issues. The same problems persist when they are in secondary school. In fact, since the very first stage children enter the education, they should get exposed to those science subjects as much as possible, and it is teachers who are to assist them in learning and making best use of those subjects. Equipping them with sufficient exposure to those sciences subjects since they are in this age will help arouse their interest in those areas. Their motivation would be intensified, their creativity would be sharpened and their level of intelligence would further increase. As a matter of fact, when in secondary school, a greater emphasis on science subjects has to be extensively laid further since they have to be well prepared for their higher education. Furthermore, by shifting more focuses from social science subjects to science ones, there is the likelihood that students’ motivation and interest would be deepened and increased steeply.

Second, the government should improve the quality, availability and accessibility of affordable and qualified technology universities ideally offering science-related subjects. Seemingly, locally, the number of technological universities is operating in a very small number, and the only university socially and academically deemed trustworthy is the Institute of Technology of Cambodia located in only Phnom Penh. Students living in suburban areas find it hard to pursue their higher education majoring in those science subjects thanks to the inaccessibility to those in their areas. By expanding a number of prestigious technology universities to meet students’ needs in almost every corner of the country especially in those remote areas, those students would have the equal opportunities to enroll in those fields of study with ease. Surely, there is still a possibility for those who would migrate to live here and enroll in the university here. Migrating to study in the city is not a wise option, though, since it would have domino effects on others, namely expenses and security which further bar their ways to go for it. Equally important, the government should also place a higher emphasis on investing more resources in enhancing the quality and the effectiveness of those universities. The lack of ample resources including human, academic and financial ones is still the major stumbling block to students’ decision in choosing technological field to study. To exemplify, despite its prestige and reputation, Institute of Technology of Cambodia has been devoid of up-to-date and national documents. Laboratory room and other necessary technical equipments are not well equipped. A number of qualified lectures are shrinking gradually. Consequently, these shortcomings would dissuade students from going there.  By investing more financial resources in reforming its system, it will ensure that students are well-equipped academically for their promising career after graduation, and will further have a knock-on effect on growing numbers of student in this field. After a pragmatic reformation, under a plausible scenario, there will be a growing number of students enrolling for science subjects, ultimately.

The final solution to tackling the declining number technological and scientific students lies heavily on creating more science-related employment opportunities. Nowadays, the number of science-related careers is increasingly scarce throughout the country, whereas there is a superabundance of others. Amid this recession, since the sole purpose of students’ decision upon pursuing their higher education is to prepare themselves for the promising careers right after their graduation, students would resist the temptation to choose those fields of study whose prospective careers are not readily available. It is not uncommon that, for instance, a number of students enrolling for English Literature are growing at a remarkable pace due to the great needs of many teachers of English. The government, to cope up with this, has to give an assurance that those graduates in science fields are to be offered lucrative careers after their graduation. This can be realized by attracting foreign investors to come and invest in creating more technology-related companies, and this would serve as the catalyst to the growing numbers of science students since they would find it mentally and financially secure in majoring in those fields.

Against the backdrop of these setbacks, taking the three causes and solutions above into consideration, to remedy this situation, the role the government plays, above all, is still of fundamental importance. Government has to use the power they are given to iron these related problems out, by taking any drastic measures possible to break this vicious cycle and prevent it from happening. I felt heartbroken when hearing words of belittlement and disparagement from not only other nations but, to add insult to injury, also my own citizens! It is ridiculous and defamatory to misjudge Cambodians are citizens of absurdity. We are deprived of what we should have deserved, but ironically, we are oblivious to the peril we are in. This misleading move that comes in disguise, if without intervention, will slaughter all intelligent kids, and instead leave us a flock of sheep, sooner or later.

By: HUY SAMBATH, sophomore at IFL