Should I continue my studies or stop studying and get a job for the rest of my life? This is a common dilemma faced by young people who are graduating from high school or university.
Lim Phohuy, a 23 year-old woman from Pursat province, stopped studying four years ago in order to work alongside her mother selling cosmetics. Lim Phohuy says she wanted to continue her studies after 12th grade, but her mother forbade her.
“My mother said I should stop studying to help her because she is old and can’t do it alone,” she said. “I have to help her, because I am the only girl in the family.”
Although it’s hard work, Lim Phohuy says working is useful because it allows her to earn a little money.
In Samrithy, executive director of the NGO Education Partnership, values both work and education. He explained in an interview with Lift that the concept of education does not mean simply that, after graduation, students must go to work for the state or an NGO.
It can also mean that with enough study, they will be able to generate a job for themselves.
“It is an educational success if [the students] can go and help their parents do business,” he says, adding that he questions the Cambodian mindset that dictates that graduates should work exclusively in an office.
“It’s not a problem if students study to the level where they know how to manage their business, but if they want to do big business they will need to get more education,” he says.
In Samrithy also says that the governmental and institutional job markets are narrow, so it’s beneficial if parents make business opportunities for their children.
One young man with a degree in information technology returned to his home town to take part in the family business after graduating in 2008.
The man, who wished to withhold his name, explained that there was a lot of work to be done and he needed to help his family.
“The job was made available to me by my parents. Doing business can sometimes make you more money than working in an office,” the man says, explaining that he had worked for a year but found the job too hard.
He stopped working and returned to his home town to create his own business with the support of his parents.
It has been observed that most stud-ents who stop studying to do business are female. Nom Bophary, director of the Department of Women and Education at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, explains that the societal mindset in Cambodia devalues the education of female children because it is assumed they will be able to depend on their husband’s income.
“Some parents think early marriage and a job doing business are better for their daughters than continuing their education and finding a boyfriend,” she says.
“Compared with boys, girls earn money for their families more easily. Therefore, they are kept at home.
“However, some students discontinue their studies and turn to the working world because they have no more money for school. It’s very challenging for students from poor families to continue their higher education.
“Some youths from rich families care little for knowledge, as they will always be able to do good business.’’
One of the goals of the Ministry of Education’s strategic plan is for all students to be able to finish at least grade 9 by 2015.
Ou Eng, secretary-general of education at the Ministry, says it is ultimately the decision of parents to let their children continue their studies or have them help out with business.
But he suggests that parents should consider providing them with higher educat-ion so they will have the knowledge necessary to do business and contribute to developing the country.