Science and technology education and promotion

Cambodia recognizes the important role of science and technology in the 21st century and aims to transform and integrate technology into its human resources through the education sector. Various policies and strategies are implemented to achieve the goal such as Policy guidelines for New Generation Schools, STEM policy, Policy and Strategy on ICT in education, Education strategic plan, and many more.

Science and Technology Education, better known as STEM, adds two more core subjects to the equation: Technology and Engineering. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.1 STEM Education is a modern teaching and learning method focusing on student creativity. Student-centered and project-based learning are among the STEM education teaching methodologies. While traditional education teaches the subjects separately, STEM education integrates them all together.

Primary and Secondary Level

According to the Education Strategic Plan 2019-2023, MOEYS has improved its grade 1, 2, and 3 teaching methodologies through the dissemination of videos on Khmer teaching methodologies which can be found on the ministry website.2 During COVID-19, when school remains closed, distance teaching and learning through technology has become the solution. MOEYS introduced distance learning in 2020 as a key response to school closure. The official website of the ministry and many others have become essential platforms for students to access. Collaborating with development partners, MOEYS has produced video lessons that students can learn remotely on the ministry’s online platforms and television channels.3 On the MOEYS website, there are more than 2200 pieces of educational content, including STEM subjects such as videos, posters, digital lesson plans that students can access.4 Moreover, MOEYS has introduced the BEEP program designed to equip dropout students with basic education equivalent to grade 9. 5

At the secondary level, Science and technology reform has shown positive progress. According to the Education Strategic Plan 2019-2023, subjects such as mathematics, science, engineering, and information and communication in technology (ICT) have been reformed, revised, and integrated. 6 Cambodian students can choose between science and social science tracks once they reach grade 11.7 Science and social science tracks differentiate at the core focus of the subject taught during class.8 The former focuses heavily on science-related subjects like Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, while the latter centers on teaching non-science subjects. 9 A report found that in 2019 the number of students in the science track dropped significantly compared to the previous year, from 80 percent in 2017-2018 to 49 percent in the following school year.10

New Generation School

The New Generation school is one of the most promising science and technology education models. It was established in 2015. 11 The project’s main objective is to modernize the public education system and increase STEM-related enrollment through a series of reforms such as teaching curriculum and pedagogies, facilities and materials, autonomous school management, a school accountability system, and the intensive use of technology in education. 12 As of 2022, there are around 10 NGS across the country, of which four is primary and six are secondary education. 

New Generation school is at the development stage of establishing new-generation school standards at the preschool and primary levels. As of 2020, there are four primary level new generation schools: demonstration school, Angkor Ban, Akhea Mahasei, and Svay Prahuot primary school.13 These four primary schools are at very different stages of development. Mention in the 2020 report, only the demonstration school has passed the accreditation to become a new generation school, while the other three still need to be accredited. 14 The four primary schools have 2,436 students and 117 teachers, making the teacher-student ratio 21:1 in the 2022-2023 school year.15 As of 2022, the New generation school project has piloted Coding and Robotics and hands-on science program for primary school students as part of the 21st-century curriculum content.16

Information about New Generation School

Source: New Generation School Annual Report 2022
ProvinceSchool NameEnrollment (2022-2023)No, of classesNo. of teachers
Phnom PenhPreah Sisowath Highschool11563279
Phnom PenhPrek Leap Highschool11683691
Kampong ChamHun Sen Kampong Cham Highschool5091534
Kampong ChamPeam Chikorng Highschool10473164
KandalPrek Anchanh Highschool11753780
Svay RiengKok Pring Highscool4791537
Total6 schools5534166385

For the secondary level, In the 2020-2021 school year, NGS provided 166 classes hosting 5,531 students.17 With 385 teachers, teacher to student ratio at NGS secondary level is 14:1. The 6 NGS are Preah Sisowath high school, Prek Leap high school, Hun Sen Kampong Cham high school, Peam Chikorng high school, Prek Anchanh high school and Kok Pring high school. In the 2022-2023 school year, there was an increase in student enrollment into NGS from former private school students. Noted in the Annual report, 60% of the current NGS Preah Sisowath enrollment are from private school. The focus and integration of the four core subjects and 21st-century learning and teaching have shown positive outcomes. For instance, 1032 NGS students have won international and domestic awards in 2022. In addition, students from NGS reached an 82% percent pass rate for their grade 12 examination, 12% higher than the national rate.18

Higher education level

Many experts express concern over the low rate of STEM-related major enrollment at the undergraduate level in Cambodia. Despite the global demand increase in STEM-related occupations, only 30 percent of students enroll to study in STEM-related majors in the 2019-2020 school year. The figure show improvement from the 2012-2013 school year, where only 18 percent of students choose STEM majors.19 Higher education institutions offering STEM-related majors are reported to be around 52 institutions, of which 36 are privately-own and 16 are public institutions.20 A report found that most STEM-related majors in higher education institutions teach general subjects. At the same time, courses related to soft skills such as critical thinking or problem-solving skills are absent.21 Only a few institutions offer subjects on new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and data sciences.22 

The government has initiated various policies to improve STEM education at the higher education level. The policy and strategy on ICT education concentrated on five core strategies, including

  • finance for ICT in education
  • ICT support for teaching and learning
  • human resource development
  • infrastructure, connectivity, and equipment 
  • governance and management. 

Science and Technology Promotion

The government has strongly emphasized promoting science and technology to the public, especially students. Enrollment in STEM majors is necessary in order to keep up with the international economy and development trends.23 The public and private sector has joined hands to disseminate and raise awareness of science and technology through many different ways, including public events, workshops, seminars, and social campaigns.

Participants were joining the Cambodia Tech Expo event. Photo taken from Cambodia Tech Expo’s Facebook page on 12 November 2022.

The government has declared March 26th as National Science, Technology, and Innovation Day.24 It aims to promote widespread uses of technologies and encourage startup innovation projects in the countries. Align with the promotional campaign, Many science and technology-related festivals, and expo are attracting more public attention, especially from students.  Cambodia Tech Expo, Cambodia International Science Technology and Innovation Expo, and STEM Festival are among the biggest tech-related events in Cambodia. These types of public events feature hundreds of tech-related exhibitions from related ministries, education, research institutions, private companies, and development partners.

Challenges and way forward

Even though the progression of Science and technology education in Cambodia is tangible, challenges still persist. They are low enrollment in higher education, shortage in the secondary education level science track, gender enrollment imbalance, the lack of ICT infrastructure and facilities, the lack of ICT skill for teachers and the shortage of electricity and internet connection in remote areas.

Cambodian students tend to choose non-stem majors when they start college. Only 30 percent of graduate students are in STEM-related majors. Despite the demand increase in STEM-related careers, Cambodia faces a supply shortage in these sectors.25 Likewise, gender imbalance in science and technology education also presents a problem. A study found that female students are likely to choose the science track in high school but switch to non-STEM majors once they reach university.26 Of the tertiary enrollment in STEM majors, only 14 percent are women.27 

Implementing science and technology-related education is expensive in terms of facilities and equipment. The expenditure of the New Generation School model provides a clear picture of the budget required for the STEM model driven by modern and high-tech equipment. An NGS report states that it costs NGS program 256$ per secondary student per year.28 This spending would exceed the government budget for education should they want to implement the model nationwide. In addition, most schools in Cambodia, especially in rural areas, lack modern facilities such as computers, laboratories, and libraries. They are among the crucial components to practice and get hands-on experience in science and technology education.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) provide 70 million USD loan to Cambodia to reform upper secondary education relating to STEM subjects.29 Main objective of the reform are to modernize the traditional Cambodia STEM education through improving education qualities, narrow the STEM skill gaps through STEM related human capital development and improve teachers’ STEM knowledge to better delivery STEM lesson.30 The project will equipped schools with STEM education facilities by upgrading 14 upper secondary school network and 103 general upper secondary school’s facilities. Its also develop 775 STEM teachers’ capacity by offering content development training for teachers to improve their knowledge and content delivery.31

Related to Science and technology education and promotion

References

  1. 1. David W White, “What is STEM education and why it is important?,” January 2014, accessed March 2023.
  2. 2. Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, “Education Strategic Plan 2019-2023,” June 2019, accessed March 2023.
  3. 3. UNESCO, “UNESCO Strengthens Distance-learning in Cambodian Education System during COVID-19,” Press release, June 2020, accessed March 2023.
  4. 4. Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, “Presentation on ICT curriculum in general education,” Digital Government Policy Workshop Session 4: Digital Talent and Innovation, accessed March 2023.
  5. 5. UNESCO, “Basic Education Equivalency Programme (BEEP),” March 2023, accessed March 2023.
  6. 6. Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, “Education Strategic Plan 2019-2023,” June 2019, accessed March 2023.
  7. 7. Kao Sovansophal, Chea Phal, and Song Sopheak, “Upper secondary school tracking and major choices in higher education: to switch or not to switch,” CDRI, Working paper series No. 133, March 2022, accessed March 2023.
  8. 8. ibid.
  9. 9. ibid.
  10. 10. Kao Sovansophal, “A Review on STEM Enrollment in Higher Education of Cambodia: Current Status, Issues, and Implications of Initiatives,” March 2020, accessed March 2023.
  11. 11. Bo Chankolika, “New Generation Schools in Cambodia: Innovative school governance for sustainable quality of 21st century learning and instruction,” 2020, accessed March 2023.
  12. 12. Nhem Davuth. “New Generation School initiative in Cambodia: revisiting its effects on shadow
    education,” Policy Futures in education, May 2022, accessed March 2023.
  13. 13. KAPE, “New Generation School Annual Report 2020,” January 2020, accessed March 2023.
  14. 14. ibid.
  15. 15. KAPE, “New Generation School Annual Report 2022,” January 2023, accessed April 2023.
  16. 16. ibid.
  17. 17. ibid.
  18. 18. ibid.
  19. 19. Kao Sovansophal, Chea Phal, and Song Sopheak, “Upper secondary school tracking and major choices in higher education: to switch or not to switch,” CDRI, Working paper series No. 133, March 2022, accessed March 2023.
  20. 20. Kao Sovansophal, “A Review on STEM Enrollment in Higher Education of Cambodia: Current Status, Issues, and Implications of Initiatives,” March 2020, accessed March 2023.
  21. 21. Cambodia Development Resource Institute, “Demand for and supply of digital skills in Cambodia.” November 2021, accessed March 2023.
  22. 22. ibid.
  23. 23. Kaing Sopheap, “How can STEM help stimulate economic growth in Cambodia,” July 2015, accessed April 2023.
  24. 24. Khmer Times Staff, “Cambodia organises first-ever Science, Technology and Innovation Day,” March 2023, accessed April 2023.
  25. 25. Cambodia Development Resource Institute, “Demand for and supply of digital skills in Cambodia.” November 2021, accessed March 2023.
  26. 26. Kao Sovansophal, Chea Phal, and Song Sopheak, “Upper secondary school tracking and major choices in higher education: to switch or not to switch,” CDRI, Working paper series No. 133, March 2022, accessed March 2023.
  27. 27. KAPE, “STEM4WOMEN,” program profile, accessed March 2023.
  28. 28. KAPE, “New Generation School Annual Report 2022,” January 2023, accessed April 2023.
  29. 29. Khmer Times Staff. “ADB approves $70 mln loan to Cambodia for education reforms,” Khmer Times, November 2022, accessed April 2023.
  30. 30. Asian Development Bank, “ADB to strengthen upper secondary STEM education reforms in Cambodia,” November 2022, accessed April 2023.
  31. 31. ibid.
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