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Are some falling behind Phnom Penh’s tech crunch?

Are some falling behind Phnom Penh’s tech crunch?

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We’re often forgetful that there are still some places without technology even a stone’s throw away, out by the plantations and rice fields.

Nineteen-year-old university student Sen Sel grew up in one of these very places, in Kampong Cham province. He just graduated high school and has come to Phnom Penh for a chance at higher education. He now attends Royal University of Phnom Penh.

But unlike most of the other students, Sen Sel struggles with using a computer because of his background. He encounters difficulties with his studies on a daily basis.

“Computer education just started at my high school now. Computers are very difficult for me,” he said.

“I do not know anything about the programs. It takes me a long time to do schoolwork.”

Now, Sen Sel takes a computer course to aid his troubles.

The number of graduates from the provinces pursuing a university education in Phnom Penh is on the rise. At the same time, these students are encountering problems using computers to type up their papers and send e-mails: things now compulsory for university life.

Im Samrithy, Executive Director of Education/NGO Partnership, said that studying computers at the secondary-school level is beneficial for entering a globalised job market here in Cambodia.

“If students have a good command of computers, they can be ready for jobs that require some capacity of tech-knowledge. If we don’t know basic computer technology, then this is now just another form of illiteracy,” he said.

“In other countries, they’re learning computers at an even younger age than high school.”

Back in 2004, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport issued a policy on launching Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the Kingdom to help disperse computer technology to even the poorest schools.

The Deputy of Pursat High School, Aing Ngy, said that his school implemented computer education in 2007 – when they first received them. Now, year-11 students study on these 30 computers for two-hours per week. The government policy, however, is still only a step in the right direction.

“We cannot provide for all 700 students to study computers, since we lack trained teachers and adequate facilities for computer rooms,” Aing Ngy said.

“There are other problems, too, such as the high cost of electricity and a shortage of repair tools for computers.”

Twenty-year-old Ly Bela from Kandal province also faces difficulties utilising computer technology for his studies in university.

“ICT at high school will be beneficial for the next generation. They will know it before going to university. If I had learnt it at school, I wouldn’t have these difficulties,” he said.

Sen Sel also echoed these sentiments, saying that ICT is only as effective as its human resources and equipment.  

The Ministry of Education has no choice but to limit ICT to year-11 students, Im Samrithy said. He explained that there is not enough financial backing to extend ICT to others, and only development partners will help to financially fortify the system.

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