Seminar Highlights Need for High Standards Need Standards

Over 500 researchers, students, monks and academics crowded the Royal Academy’s main auditorium Tuesday morning for the opening of the 6th Socio-Cultural Res­earch Congress on Cambodia, a three-day marathon of Cambo­dia-related research presentations.

The annual event, sponsored by the Henrich Boell Foundation, at­tracted more than 100 participants from 43 institutions this year, presenting on topics ranging from Khmer literature to Pali texts to gang rape patterns in Phnom Penh.

Speakers Tuesday and Wednes­day consistently raised the need for increased quality standards among Cambodian students and faculty, and paused to evaluate the progress of Cambodian research.

“Every year the number of re­search presentations has in­creased,” said Hema Goona­tilake, adviser and former Cam­bo­dia dir­ector of the Boell Found­ation, in a speech. “But I would like to draw attention to one point. The effectiveness of our program should be judged not from the num­ber of research papers presented, but the quality of research.”

Vong Meng, professor at the Royal Academy, presented a paper Wednesday on the status of literature in Cambodia, at one point critiquing the low quality of literary publications. An audience member suggested the creation of a national publication board to facilitate peer reviewing and thereby improve publication quality.

While researchers clearly reveled in the conference, speakers cau­tioned that, if current trends continue, Cambodia may not have a place for intellectuals some day.

“What deserves our attention in higher education and postgraduate-level study is the quality of train­ing,” said Neth Barom of the con­­ference committee. “The number of students in higher education has aggressively in­creased in our country, while the numbers of training programs and skill levels haven’t yet in­creased. This may create unemployment among our intellectuals in the future.”

“This is a learning process,” said Sim Sorya, deputy director of the Documentation Center of Cambo­dia, who presented a paper on genocide collective memory. The center is the country’s largest repository of documents related to the Khmer Rouge regime. “We have done research, and now we are trying to learn by getting comments, challenges and other views to our papers. This is how university work gets better,” he said.

 

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