The education market in Phnom Penh has exploded in recent years, with courses in everything from engineering and business to language and medicine. When it comes to accounting and finance, however, CamEd Business School stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Students appreciate the stimulating atmosphere at the institute, which offers bachelor and higher-level degrees, said CamEd president Casey Barnett, CFA, FCCA, during an interview with the Post at the school, located on the corner of Preah Norodom Boulevard and Street 108.
Barnett said that the school was “very proud of the academic program we have here”, which, he added, includes Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) curriculum and exams. The ACCA is a global accounting body. It offers the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification. The association, headquartered in London, is one of the biggest and fastest-growing accountancy bodies in the world, boasting some 170,000 members and 436,000 students in nearly 200 countries.
But what makes CamEd extra special is its well-roundedness. The school approaches learning with the mindset that “when our students finish university and go out looking for a job or to start their own business, it’s not just technical skills that will make them successful – it’s also the skills of working as a team, leadership, and the ability to listen and evaluate”, he said. “These are the things that CamEd also teaches.”
The school takes an active role in helping organise activities such as student clubs, charity events, sporting competitions and camping trips, the point of which is to build both students' team building and independent work skills.
“The first thing that happens when students join our bachelor’s program – before they attend any classes, before they study – is we take them on hiking and camping trips,” Barnett said.
“Many students have previously only lived with their parents and have yet to live independently. The first thing we do is take them out of that environment. They’re away from their parents, away from their friends and away from their house.
“We take them to Ream National Park and on a 3.5-kilometre hike, walking up and down and along a mountain. It’s very much an independent exercise yet also requires teamwork; each group of students works as the team and they have to carry their own equipment and supplies,” he added. “Most of them have never been out in nature, and here they are climbing up a mountain.
“To us, this is a great way for the students to become independent – by surviving with their team. After three and half kilometres of hiking, the students and their team set up their own tents. They then collect wood from the forest to make a fire so they can cook their own food. They all have to agree with their group on what they’re going to cook and how they’re going to cook it.”
The students only receive some basic ingredients and rice. The rest is up to them, but school management is always there, ready to lend a hand if necessary.
The next morning, the students pack up camp and begin the hike back.
“This is a very intensive team-building exercise. They’re not just learning to be independent, they’re also learning to grow and accept other people,” Barnett said.
“About a month after the camping trip, we have student clubs invite students to join based on their chosen field. We have clubs for marketing, accounting, business, investment and international business. I have made contact with business and community leaders in Cambodia, so aside from just studying in the classroom, students also visit companies, factories, hotels, etc.
“The students themselves organise everything. This improves their networking and communication skills.”
One of the school’s most successful trips was its recent three-day, two-night visit to Siem Reap.
More than 300 students took part in the trip, and they organised everything – from transportation to accommodation to cycling trips through Angkor Wat and charity events – themselves through the student clubs.
“For the Siem Reap-Angkor trip, the only thing the school helped students with was to deal with the money side of things,” Barnett said.
“We wanted them to do everything by themselves through teamwork.”
CamEd’s students have recently held two successful charity events to support an underfunded rural school in Kampong Speu province and to support those people affected by 2013’s severe flooding.
Another point of pride for CamEd are the sporting activities it organises. “It is something that is unique to us. We’re the only university that has organised a women’s futsal team and tournament,” Barnett said.
“It’s very interesting to me as American, and surprising here in Cambodia as not that many universities promote sport among women.”
The CamEd women’s futsal comp started on March 16, with games every weekend until the championship matches on April 6. All games were held at the KB Sports Club fields near the National Assembly.
“The winner was a team of first-year students – the Cam Devils. In second place was Twinkle Star, a team of second-year students, and The Green, a team of second- and third-year students, came in third.”
The response to these efforts has been very encouraging, he added. “After the first futsal tournament, the women themselves enjoyed the competition and enjoyed the teamwork.