Strengthening STEM Education Is A Priority

Bolstering Cambodia’s STEM offerings within the education system are essential for the country to benefit from the roll out of Industry 4.0 and the digital era, according to a new roadmap from the Ministry of Education
Students visit UDAYA boot at CODE-C in Phnom Penh June 18, 2022. Kiripost/via UDAYA
Students visit UDAYA boot at CODE-C in Phnom Penh June 18, 2022. Kiripost/via UDAYA

A new roadmap for education in Cambodia reveals a switch in focus to STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - as the nation embraces digitalization.

Chea Vuth, Deputy Director of the Department of Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, said the ministry's Strategic Plan for Education has set out a roadmap for 2020-2030 on education in Cambodia, in which there is a strong focus on digital education.

In those strategic plans, he believes there are 13 main points that the ministry attempts to focus on to boost and strengthen STEM education in the country.

“The first point is regulatory teaching in a way of discovering and finding solution teaching techniques, including other scientific research. A second point, as the ministry found out that teachers normally face challenges teaching [STEM], the ministry has provided training for improving the soft skill of teachers,” he stated in an interview with the Cambodia 4.0 center program.

Investing in soft skill training for teachers has been done through funds from Asian Development Bank, which has prepared a STEM lesson plan for teachers to teach in class, he added.

“Third, the ministry will broaden physical equipment in the laboratories, libraries to other schools that don’t have it yet. In addition, for the fourth point, we allow teachers to​ integrate their teaching, which means teaching many subjects at the same time. For the fifth point, we will prepare a training workshop for teachers at teacher education institutions, which means all the teachers that have been taught from the NIE-National Institute of Education, Regional Teacher Training Schools. They already have the knowledge to teach STEM subjects at school,” he said.

Additional elements include supplying STEM textbooks related to students, curriculum reform for more practice in teaching and learning, smart classroom preparation, and more STEM competition programs for provincial to national level.

“Even during the Covid-19 era, we haven’t abandoned STEM education. Both stakeholders and MoEYS Cambodia still keep on celebrating the STEM festival virtually and we do it annually. So, it means we are still capable of going forward,” Vuth mentioned.

Planning to create smart libraries as digital libraries or so-called 21st century libraries that promote technical teaching can help students gain more STEM-related knowledge and lead to more STEM jobs. Furthermore, he laid out plans to strengthen foreign languages, such as English and French, that MoEYS has selected as a basic language in the education system.

“Last but not least, it is the most essential thing that we tried to promote digital education, following the school digital score assessment. For example, one good model math teacher in the school, if he or she teaches only in one class at a time, that means he or she can teach only 35 to 40 students in a class. But if he or she teaches online and teaches other classes at the same time. There will be more classes and students able to get good knowledge at the same time from the good math teacher of the school,” he added.

Vuth also recommended students strengthen their foreign languages and STEM knowledge following the 4.0 concept.

From 2016 to 2021the majority of students that chose STEM for their college learning dropped about 30 percent. In 2022, the rate of social and science studies followed a similar trend.

Vuth discussed the strategic solution during Covid-19 of improving STEM education in the country, “MoEYs has changed or corrected two formats and materials in teaching at the schools. Like magnificent buildings with good labs, computer rooms, tablets on wheels, in order to assist students and teachers to access both practical and lessons at the same time.”

According to STEM and Education Technology in Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Kyrgyz Republic,

and Uzbekistan A Synthesis Report in June 2022 of Asian Development Bank, the current problems faced by the general secondary education system in implementing STEM education are a shortage of teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science.

Other main issues are the absence of training programs offered for the preparation of integrated STEM education teachers in pre-service and in-service education, and a lack of modern laboratories and technical equipment required for education in STEM subjects.

A lack of educational and methodological frameworks, such as textbooks, workbooks, and teacher guides, for integrated STEM education remain a barrier, as does insufficient funding. Currently, the bulk of state budget expenditure on public education is on wages, while limited funds are allocated for the renewal of school equipment and materials, as well as renovation of school buildings.

The ‘Comparison of STEM Education in the Four Developing Member Countries with Finland and Singapore’ report illustrates that Cambodia is still in the process of developing a standard of pre-service teacher education in STEM subjects, teacher professional development, STEM education practices, research activity levels of teacher education institutes and for the long history of scientific academies and scientific societies for the cause of national science development has in the system but not in the non-government organization mode.

Furthermore, integrated STEM as a subject in mainstream schools, the presence of science centers, providers of STEM education from outside the school system, and the fact that high bandwidth access to the Internet in schools does not yet exist in Cambodia remain major barriers.

Sample Sizes for Survey Instruments in Each Developing Member Country from the same report of ADB shows there was a 10,500 sample size for STEM teachers in the survey.