The education system in Cambodia should not only provide knowledge but also impart virtues, morality and positive behaviour starting from kindergarten, said Prime Minister Hun Manet.

During his meeting with members of the Cambodian diaspora residing in the US and Canada, held in the US’ New York City on September 23, Manet explained that impeccable behaviour is essential to human resources, and believed that the morals of young people could be instilled from a young age.

“We intend to strengthen the reforms that have been the foundation of our education sector over the past years. We have a long-term plan, and under this mandate, we will focus on strengthening education from kindergarten through to grade 12. We will not just ensure our future human resources are literate, but will also teach them about virtues, morals and good manners,” he said in a social media post.

He advised the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to introduce programmes which would inspire children to adopt positive habits, such as helping one another and volunteering in their communities.

“We tend to think of acquiring knowledge when we think of education, but without morals and virtues, skills and understanding of a subject are worthless. That’s why we need to work to strengthen their behaviour from a young age until grade 12. That’s a key priority,” he continued.

He also cautioned that many young people today are known for their insolent attitudes and antisocial behaviour, often riding motorcycles in a reckless manner.

“There are three places where people should be educated – at school, at home with their parents and in their social surroundings,” he explained.

Sambo Manara, vice-president of Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC), supported Manet’s suggestion.

He said he had met Manet in person to discuss the introduction of kindergarten and primary school-level classes on morality and the elimination of immoral conduct.

Manara believed that several traditional values have been lost as some parents failed to play a role in educating their children, leaving it up to teachers to do so.

“The prime minister’s remarks should serve as a reminder that the education ministry, schools and teachers – as well as parents – need to renew their focus on this issue,” he said.

He believed that parents should be the ones to instil virtues and morality into their children from a young age, because theoretically, parents are a child’s first teachers. Unfortunately, he observed, many parents expect schools alone to instruct their children, often “letting smartphones play the role of teachers in the home”.