Prime Minister Hun Sen encouraged female students to pursue their education, regardless of whether they marry and have children, noting that the number of women pursuing postgraduate degrees and doctorates has decreased sharply compared to their male counterparts.

Hun Sen made the call at the graduation ceremony of over 6,000 students, over 3,500 of them female, from the National University of Management.

“I renew my calls for women with husbands and children to pursue higher education. There are many universities that will support their studies,” he said.

He noted that there are now more female graduates at high school, bachelor and associate degree levels, but the number is significantly lower at master’s degree and doctorate levels. The decline in the number of female students pursuing post-graduate education was partially due to Khmer tradition, he said, rather than with any other obstacles.

The premier said the development of any nation requires the strongest possible human resources, so this gap should not be overlooked.

He congratulated the assembled students on their success and commended the university’s leadership for its efforts to develop the quality of education in the Kingdom.

“After the liberation of 1979 was complete, we faced a shortage of educated human resources, it is true. The future development of Cambodia relies on continuing to grow the educational levels of our people,” he said.

According to a report by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the national education strategy plan has effectively responded to gender gaps in the education sector, with the gaps having reduced significantly, especially at the primary, secondary and high school levels.

The report noted that in the 2020-2021 academic year, the number of female students who passed grades 9 and 12 examinations accounted for 53 and 54 per cent, respectively. And almost 60 per cent of the A-grade students at these levels were female, it added.

Women’s affairs minister Ing Kantha Phavi reiterated that the government is focused on providing women with the opportunity to succeed. Traditional society was male dominated, and this had been compounded by three decades of civil war, leaving women vulnerable, she said.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport spokesman Ros Soveacha echoed Hun Sen’s sentiments. “I fully support to the prime minister’s encouragement.”

According to the ministry’s 2018-2022 report, Cambodia has 130 higher education institutions (HEIs), 48 of them state-run.

The report said 198,363 students are currently enrolled at HEIs.