A committee of the Council of Ministers is scheduled to discuss today a law aimed at ensuring standards for universities, education officials said at a conference Wednesday.
National and international experts said at the conference that the proposed accreditation process is essential for the success of higher education. In recent years Cambodia has experienced a boom in private schools that teach practical subjects but operate largely without regulation.
“If we do nothing…there will be hundreds of new private institutions which will have indifferent standards,” said John Dawkins, former Australian minister of education, at the conference which continues today.
“The potential for chaos is very great. The potential for disappointing students and their parents is enormous.”
But controversies over composition of the review board, and the status of a government think tank, could stall the legislation.
The draft legislation calls for a board nominated by school directors, foreign donors to education, Southeast Asian university networks and the Ministry of Education. The board would be chaired by the Minister of Education and include four Cambodians with advanced degrees or extensive experience in higher education. It would also include two members, foreign or Cambodian, with experience in existing accreditation programs.
But some balked at allowing foreigners on the board at a previous Council of Ministers meeting to discuss the legislation, an education official familiar with the discussions said. Instead they proposed a board composed of government officials, the official said. Such a board would lack credibility, some experts at the conference said.
Also, one academy’s request for “special status” remains an issue, said Ministry of Education Secretary of State Pok Than. The Royal Academy of Cambodia, established as a government think tank a few years ago, has begun offering degrees and wants to continue doing so, he said.
“Some of the rectors think they must follow the accreditation process first,” Pok Than said.
Royal Academy director Son Samnang was not available for comment Wednesday afternoon.
The World Bank has offered to release a major loan to train teachers, develop curricula, upgrade libraries and buy equipment if the law passes.