Education officials are scheduled to meet this week to discuss the ongoing problem of educational certificates earned by refugee camp residents, which are not being recognized by Cambodian schools and universities.
Without recognition of their accomplishments, many Cambodians who want to continue their education have been disenfranchised, authorities say.
At issue are certificates earned by people living in refugee camps following the virtual destruction of Cambodia’s educational infrastructure by the Khmer Rouge.
Now is the time to clear bureaucratic hurdles, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport Secretary of State Pok Than said.
More than a year ago, top education officials wrote the Council of Ministers requesting they resume recognition of the camp certificates. A spokesman for the Council of Ministers said in September of 2000 that the council would meet with education officials “soon” to discuss the issue.
Young people living in refugee camps along the border had access to teachers and textbooks, and often received a better education than their counterparts inside Cambodia.
The certificates were recognized until 1997, when some 30 certificates purporting to be issued in refugee camps were found to be forgeries. At the time, the Ministry of Education stopped issuing certificates of equivalence recognizing the students’ credentials. They have not issued the certificates since.
Some students have alleged they are victims of a corrupt and discriminatory educational system that prefers to save scarce university slots and scholarships for students who have political connections or are wealthy.
The Paris Peace Accords of 1991—touted for bringing an end to 20 years of civil war—decreed that Cambodian educational institutions must recognize certificates awarded to citizens living in exile, including residents of refugee camps.
“The camp certificates are worthy and they should be recognized,” said Pok Than. “The students worked very hard for them.”