The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has requested mutual cooperation at the regional level to further develop students’ abilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and information technology (IT).

The request was made during the 29th ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Council Meeting, held in Bali, Indonesia, on May 8.

The meeting was attended by the ASEAN secretary-general, ASCC ministers and senior officials, and several key delegations, said a ministry statement.

During the meeting, ministry secretary of state Nath Bunroeun offered several key recommendations to achieve the ASCC’s strategic direction for its post-2025 vision.

“The recommendations included Cambodian education sector reform, developing social welfare for the people, promoting the education of the next generation from all walks of life, and the enhancement of public-private partnerships in education. He also suggested a focus on education in entrepreneurship and digital technology, and vocational education at the secondary level,” said the statement.

The ministry added that mutual assistance between ASEAN member states in developing students’ capabilities in STEM and IT, as well as research and development, at all levels is critical to boosting ASEAN market competitiveness, improving research capacity and building resilience across the region.

STEM is an approach to learning and development that integrates the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Through STEM, students develop key skills, including problem solving, creativity and critical analysis.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that in an industrial technology context, the development of youth and students’ abilities of STEM and IT would be necessary for economic development.

“Encouraging mutual assistance at the regional level to develop STEM and technology is of prime importance. We cannot thrive and develop if participation in helping each other remains limited,” he said.

“Therefore, the countries that have made great strides in STEM and information technology should narrow the gap with those that have not, in order to increase the potential of the ASEAN region, and attract direct investment from outside the region,” he added.

He suggested that while Southeast Asia has a large workforce of young people, it remains necessary to strengthen their STEM capacity, in response to the development of a “digital revolution”.