Current development of STI in Cambodia
From the economic development perspective, traditionally Cambodia is an agriculture-based country and agricultural development has always been the priority for addressing poverty reduction and rural development. According to the Fourth Cambodian Economic Forum on “Cambodian Economy in Post-Crisis Environment: Industrial Policy—Options towards a Sustainable Development” held in February 2011, it emphasized the strategic vision of the government in shifting Cambodia’s economic development from agriculture, garment, tourism, and construction dependence to a broad-based industrial and technology-oriented economy. In addition to this, UNESCO National Education Support Strategy (UNESS) emphasized that as Cambodia is developing rapidly; science and engineering human resources must play an important role in this development process. However, science and engineering education, especially at higher education level is still in the initial stage. More recently, on the demand side, according to a study conducted by Cambodian Document and Research Institute (CDRI) in 2015 Cambodia would need about 35000 engineers and another 46000 technicians in order to keep GDP growth of 6-8 percent over the next five years. However, if we take a look at the current trend of the enrollment in the field of science and engineering, and the current capacity of the higher education institutions in this field, the projection would come out that what will be produced will not match the demand side.
Currently, stakeholders in Cambodia have shared their role and responsibility in dealing with the promotion of STI, for example, the Ministry of Planning is working on overall policy, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has the human resources, Ministry of Industry and Handicraft is working in the field of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and Ministry of Labor is specializing mainly on vocational training. Even though many agencies are working in the field, the knowledge among the public such as student, policy makers, and/or ordinary people has seen to be very limited for overall demand from the society. For this reason promotion of STI is needed.
Promotion of STI
Principally promotion of STI foundation might take long time, especially developing country like Cambodia. With this regards, the government has established a platform where all concerned stakeholders can come and work together. This established agency is called National Council for Science and Technology (NCST). It is expected the STI can be promoted through a well coordination from NCST. In general, this NCST plays the role as secretariat to coordinate all relevant agencies to work together for social benefit. To support this new office I am assigned to assist the secretariat to improve the content of the existing draft of the STI Policy Cambodia. With guidance from my supervisor, Mr. Has Bunton, I was introduced to his colleagues who are key persons in preparing the draft policy and to learn each other for updating the draft. From a two formal meetings with Mr. Has and his colleagues I provided comments on the Cambodian STI policy from development process till implement process. In principle, Mr. Has and his team were happy with the comments and I am advised to continue working with his team to improve the draft based on the outputs of the meetings.
Personally, I love very much Science and Technology and have been working and being involved in a number of researches and events to promote STI. For instance, I was invited to be a key member of the CDRI for the consultation retreat for the development of the content of a workshop on ‘STI for Sustainable Development’ held in Phnom Penh. The main task of the retreat and the workshop is to outreach the importance of STI to the public, especially the policy maker. Based on the ideas from discussion during among the key member the workshop was conducted on September 16, 2016 in Phnom Penh. The key stakeholders who are working on STI were invited to shared and discussed the progress of STI in Cambodia.
In August 08-21, 2016 I was invited to join a training visit in Japan entitled ‘ Science, Technology, and Research for Sustainable Development’. This was a good training which allows me to explore more the mean and techniques to bridge the scientific information to policy makers. I learnt a lot and it contributed positively to my current work as a fellow under the PROGRESS. From the training, I understood more on the challenges and solution toward the use of science in decision-making process.
More recently, I attended a conference entitled ‘Internal Network of Research Management Societies 2016 Conference’ at Melbourne of Australia on September 11-15, 2016. The participants of the conference focused mainly on sharing their research management policy. I was requested to present on the situation of research policy in Cambodia. The title of my presentation was “The Development of an Integrated and Innovative Research Management, Engagement, and Collaboration Platform: A Case of Cambodian Forum for Research and Development”. The most interesting session was ‘Policy Development and Implementation’ conducted by professor Bob Andresen of University of Wisconsin and his colleagues. The session significantly helped me in for my current fellowship work since it identify gaps and challenges for STI policy we have in Cambodia.
From the experiences and background in the field of S&T, I believe Cambodia has to work harder to have a proper policy to drive the national development. It is even more challenging to improve this field when the government is shifting the economic development from agricultural-based to industrial-based pattern. Within this short period of time, the country should intensively focus on the development of STI foundation policy among academic institutions and relevant agencies.
In addition, awareness on the importance of STI among public including policy makers, politician, businessman, and ordinary people is required. For this reasons, my supervisor and I will work closely together to enhance the understanding the importance of STI as well as to improve the existing draft based on inputs from stakeholders. Thus, it is expected that my frequent meeting among key partners of NCST will be conducted through different approaches such as workshop, ministerial meeting, and individual meeting. In the mean time, we are discussing to organize a workshop with the support from USAID to conduct a workshop which relevant key stakeholders who will be invited to provide input to the existing draft policy. This mean of communication may improve the understanding and the ownership of policy.
About the Author:
Dr. Hul Seingheng is the Director of Research and Development of Institute of Technology of Cambodia. He has Doctoral Degree in Environmental Engineering from University of the Philippines-Diliman and Shizuoka University-Japan with high distinction under AUN/Seed-Net JICA Program in 2010. Dr. HUL Seingheng has over 5 years’ experience in engineering education and research. He has been working and leading for more than ten research and development projects in Cambodia. His main motivation is to have a good STI policy of Cambodia through bridging scientific information to policy maker.
Social network: https://www.linkedin.com/in/seingheng-hul-19494011b