Is Cambodia Ready to Embrace Generative AI in Education?

Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of MoEYS, embraces the integration of generative AI in education, stating that the technology can replace learning by memorization using critical-thinking skills and learning to bring new innovations
Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) Hang Chuon Naron speaks during a press conference, March 6, 2023. Kiripost/Meas Molika
Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) Hang Chuon Naron speaks during a press conference, March 6, 2023. Kiripost/Meas Molika

Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), said that technology is necessary for learning, and digital learning through self-regulated learning is one of the ministry’s goals to boost economic growth.

The Minister made his comments during the National Youth Debate 2023, which was held on August 12 under the theme, ‘Artificial Intelligence and Education’.

Progress of Reforming Education System

To achieve this goal, MoEYS has organized projects and programs such as the National Youth Debate, boot camps, and digital competitions. This is to provide youth with the research skills necessary for self-regulated learning, as well as the critical-thinking skills to use generative AI to benefit society and economic growth, he said.

New Generation Schools (NGS) is a MoEYS initiative that aims to improve Cambodia’s education quality. In 2015, MoEYS launched NGS at Preah Sisowath High School, it has become well-known among students for its quality education, which is better than non-NGS schools.

Hean Chhinling, a former student at NGS, received a scholarship to pursue his higher education in Hungary. He said that teachers at NGS are more caring and responsive than non-NGS teachers.

Overall, he said he was satisfied with NGS during his last two years in high school. Additionally, NGS provides coding courses for two hours a week, he said.

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Two of the four goals of creating NGS are the integration of technology in learning and the implementation of a new learning method.

“Learning is not about memorization anymore,” the Minister said. “We can use generative AI to learn to solve problems using critical-thinking skills and teamwork, and bring new innovations through the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM).”

Naron said, “MoEYS has invested a lot of money on building NGS. Over the past decade, $10 million was spent on this project, consisting of 11 NGSs, an equivalent of $1 million per year.”

The number of NGS schools stands at 11 and is small in comparison to the total number of schools in Cambodia, which was 12,889, as of 2017.

Based on World Bank data, in 2021, the Cambodian government’s expenditure on the education sector was 15.74 percent of total government expenditure, an equivalent of $810 million.

The Role of Generative AI in Cambodian Education

Generative AI can be used for repetitive tasks so that humans do not have to do them, such as summarizing documents, generating students’ transcripts and analyzing data.

Despite generative AI giving learners access to a vast amount of information, it does not mean the technology does not have drawbacks. It is important to have skills to distinguish inaccurate information from factual content generated by AI, he said.

Naron, who embraces the idea of lifelong learning, believes that generative AI will be a good partner for lifelong learners.

For educators, generative AI can be used to assist their tasks, such as evaluating students’ work, but they have to double-check the evaluation to ensure that there are no inaccuracies.

Additionally, generative AI or Machine Learning (ML) can be used to set up examination formats. Moreover, unlike humans, AI is not emotional; therefore, there are no emotional biases in evaluating students’ exam papers if AI is used for evaluating, he said.

MoEYS has requested the Institute of Technology of Cambodia to include new majors, such as bachelor of Artificial Intelligence, Bachelor of Data Science, and Bachelor of Cybersecurity. These new majors are important for Cambodia to develop its human resources.

Digital Divide in Cambodia

In normal public schools, there are no coding courses provided for students. Moreover, the majority of high school students do not own computers and the schools have limited access to computers.

For instance, in 2021, Cambodia Investment Review conducted a study and found that among its respondents, 32 percent had access to the internet while only 23 percent had access to a computer or tablet.

The US, which is known for technological advancement, has increased the inclusion of coding courses in high school. According to the K-12 report on national computer science policy, in 2021, 51 percent of US high schools offered coding courses. This figure is much higher than Cambodia’s.

Low English Proficiency in Cambodia

However, humans need to have digital literacy skills to use AI efficiently. “The English language is really important for using generative AI," the Minister said.

Yet, according to the EF English Proficiency Index, in 2021, Cambodia’s English proficiency was ranked 97th out of 112 countries while Vietnam ranked 66th. This shows that English proficiency in Cambodia is low.

“Cambodia’s low English proficiency level is concerning as there is a great need for the use of English for various opportunities, including but not limited to professional, recreational, and educational possibilities,” said Kimcheng Ngel in his op-ed article published on Cambodian Education Forum (CEF).

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Expert Recommendations on the Use of AI in Education

Heng Kimkong, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Cambodian Education Forum, suggested some recommendations for the effective use of AI in education and research for students, educators and researchers.

First of all, he recommends that instead of banning the use of generative AI, educational institutions should provide training to students and teachers to learn how to use it with accountability and academic integrity.

Furthermore, he noted that to enhance the quality of education, action research should be conducted to further examine the effectiveness and efficiency of integrating this intelligent application in education. Funding for research is needed, he added.

However, Kimkong warned students and educators about the inaccuracy of generated content. He suggested that they should be responsible for fact-checking content generated by generative AI.

Additionally, he said that the use of generative AI should be limited to brainstorming ideas and generating an outline, not generating an entire essay or research paper.

He also stressed the importance of cooperation between policymakers, school directors and teachers to prevent unfair learning evaluation by revising the assessment standards. This can be done by requiring students to provide proper citation to their academic works, he added.

Cambodian Education Forum (CEF) is a publication platform for researchers, educators and students to share knowledge and perspectives on contemporary educational issues and research findings about education in Cambodia.


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