Coding

Students As Young as Seven Study Coding in Cambodia

As Cambodia gallops towards digitalization, coding camp Sabai Code is prepping the younger generation to be tech savvy and tap into the potential technology holds.
Children study robotics at Sabai Code in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/via Sabai Code
Children study robotics at Sabai Code in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/via Sabai Code

A Phnom Penh coding school is training children as young as seven to code and study robotics to tap into their potential early as classes become increasingly popular.

“We’ve seen rising demand, there is a high demand for it in the market,” said Sum Sareuon, 44, co-founder of Sabai Code, a computer programming academy in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Keng Kang commune.

Children study robotics at Sabai Code in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/via Sabai Code
Children study robotics at Sabai Code in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/via Sabai Code

“Some parents have sent their children to study the wrong subjects and our vision is that we want to develop Cambodia’s next generation of children into technology,” Sareuon added from the sideline of a coding festival at Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT) on Saturday.

“We’ve seen a lot of demand for it, especially in the context of the 4.0 Industrial Revolution. We didn't have many coding schools before but now we have about 3 to 4 coding schools,” he said.

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Sareuon added that the need to be tech savvy has been even stronger during the two-year pandemic as people had to shop online and do more work digitally.

“It is a way to do things cheaper and work is faster,” he added.

Sum Sareuon stands next to a robot at a coding festival in Phnom Penh June 18, 2022. Kiripost/Penh Chamroeun
Sum Sareuon stands next to a robot at a coding festival in Phnom Penh June 18, 2022. Kiripost/Penh Chamroeun

Sabai Code was co-founded in 2019 by financier Piseth Leng, who had studied in the US for an MBA.

Seirey Chhunheng, Sabai Code’s manager, noted the rising popularity in learning computer programming and said he has seen a demand in the market for software developments.

Chhunheng said Sabai Code currently trains 114 children, ages as young as seven and as old as 22.

“We train children to write code, computer programming and data science. We also have a year-long boot camp program,” Chhunheng said.

The boot camp is fully-funded for 10 scholarships worth $12,000 by telecoms company Cellcard. Upon graduation, there is the possibility they can land a job at Wing Bank, internet provider Ezecom or Cellcard, Sareuon said.

He added that the academy has to keep innovating and researching so it leads with school curriculums. A three-month course is $195 and at the end of every course, students are required to produce software.

Um Somavathey, 18, a bootcamp student at Sabai Code, said studying computer programming makes people think better.

“I’ve liked it since I was in high school, since I was in 10th grade, because studying it helps me think better and more logically,” Somavathey said. “When we use other apps, it makes us curious and we try to find better solutions,” she said.

Um Somavathey attends a coding festival in Phnom Penh June 18, 2022. Kiripost/Penh Chamroeun
Um Somavathey attends a coding festival in Phnom Penh June 18, 2022. Kiripost/Penh Chamroeun

She is also working on a project called Place, which will allow people to find places they want to go. She will also build a website encouraging more people, especially women, to study IT. The website will feature work opportunities for IT students.

Only six percent of students have previously studied IT and only 30 percent had jobs in the sector, Somavathey said.

Technology in Cambodia is male-dominated and female students often feel unwelcome, according to Sisters of Code, Cambodia’s female coding club in Cambodia.

The organization said only 10 percent of female students in Cambodia choose to study technology-related subjects. Additionally, only 30 percent of graduates end up with jobs in the field of IT.

A lack of role models, confidence and opportunities, coupled with pressure from society holds back female students from learning important digital skills and getting actively involved in the digital economy, Sister of Code said.