Students to Get Course in Responsible Use of Social Media

The Education Ministry is planning to introduce a course to the country’s schools that would teach upper-secondary students how to responsibly use social media, the minister said on Friday.

Hang Chuon Naron, the education minister, said that with the ever-increasing use of social media for political and social commentary, it was time that students learned exactly what their rights and responsibilities are with regard to public postings. 

“If you look at the way social media is used in Cambodia now, you can see that there is irresponsible use,” Mr. Chuon Naron said. “Some people use social media in a way that infringes on the rights of others, promotes violence or crime.”

The education minister said that online outrage this week over a gateway built for the Angkor Sangkranta festival in Siem Reap City—which was judged by many as insufficiently Cambodian, and overly Vietnamese—was a prime example of irresponsible use of social media.

Facebook users posted anti-Vietnamese and anti-Chinese comments about the archway. On Tuesday morning, it was burned down. Police said their investigation would encompass Facebook.

“Sometimes disputes online are completely nonsensical,” Mr. Chuon Naron said. “In some cases, people are promoting hatred. There are legal and moral issues, and it is appropriate for students to be taught this in school.”

The Open Institute, a local NGO working with the Education Ministry to produce information and communications technology (ICT) textbooks for grades 11 and 12, completed a research project on Wednesday in which it visited 42 schools in 18 provinces and presented more than 4,500 students with a number of social media scenarios.

“In one, a boy takes a picture of himself wearing a bra while he is drunk and sends it to his girlfriend,” said Javier Sola, a program director at The Open Institute. “Two weeks later, he breaks up with the girl and she posts the photo online saying: ‘look, he broke up with me because he is gay.’

“We needed to ask the students, ‘who did something wrong here,’ and from the answers we got a lot of ideas about what needs to be in the textbook,” he said.

Mr. Sola said that the Education Ministry was currently printing 100,000 Grade 11 ICT textbooks for distribution and that the grade 12 textbook, complete with a chapter dedicated to responsible use of social media, would be rolled out next year.

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