Higher education needs to be more job-oriented in Cambodia

Education is an investment, and it is the responsibility of universities to ensure that students, parents, and the country see a return on that investment. As the President of the American University of Phnom Penh that is my primary goal, to offer the young people of Cambodia not only the best possible education, but one that will give them the prerequisite skills, knowledge, and experience to succeed in the modern world.

Here in Cambodia many parents make huge sacrifices so that their children can have a good education, whether it be at a private university or public one. Unfortunately, as with many things it is a sad reality that quality is expensive, and education is no exception. All too often parents invest a lot and still don’t see any returns for their children. This is because in many universities the emphasis is still on acquiring knowledge by rote learning.

Students will memorise vast amounts of information without fully understanding it or knowing how to apply it. It is what Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher, describes as “banking education”. Students accumulate facts and figures and then cash them in for a certificate at the end of their studies. All done without understanding or awareness of their relevance. We need to move away from that and provide students not only with the knowledge but also the skills that will equip them for the workplace.

There is a popular belief that private universities are expensive, and certainly most private institutions charge more than public institutions. But I believe one can see a lot of good from private education. Quite often it is the private sector that sets the standard and drives innovation, and many institutions such as my own University operate a none profit business model. There are no investors taking a dividend, any profits are reinvested in to the University and to student learning.

To illustrate the argument that the private sector can be a force for good – we at the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) work closely with our industry partners to ensure our curriculum is aligned with their needs and relevant to industry. We’ve partnered with businesses across many different industries to provide our students with internships and hands-on work experience.

In addition to that we are in the process of setting up an Industry Advisory Board who will work closely with us to create programmes that reflect the needs of industry. This ensures that when our students graduate they are immediately employable. Too often the complaint from industry is that they have to spend many months training new graduates to make them workplace ready. I am proud to say that our students are able to hit the ground running and are workplace ready at the point of graduation. Employers do not have to spend additional months training them. We feel this kind of an approach ensures a return on investment for the country, students and society at large.

Find out more : KhmerTimes


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