A visiting team of World Bank officials is concerned with the progress of reforming the higher education system and the status of a stalled government subdecree to create an academic accreditation board, a World Bank official said Friday.
The establishment of an accreditation board is a requirement for receiving a low-interest World Bank loan that would purchase computers for libraries and colleges and establish a graduate-level program to train university professors, said Chris Thomas, the World Bank’s acting manager for education in East Asia.
The loan will be released only when a draft law is passed to establish a politically neutral accreditation board, Thomas said.
“We’ve always said that we would prepare a project if there’s a satisfactory legal framework, and that hasn’t materialized yet. The longer you wait, the more competition there is for funds,” Thomas said.
The World Bank officials concluded their review of the Ministry of Education’s primary and secondary school education projects Wednesday and will begin a one-week assessment of higher education today, Thomas said.
Members of the academic community are watching the visit closely. The group’s presence may help spur the government to pass legislation that could help raise the standards of the education system, said Luise Ahrens, adviser to the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
“At this point, it’s difficult for donors to participate with the government,” Ahrens said.
Officials from the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Education met Feb 13 to discuss the quality and criteria of a proposed accreditation committee but made no motion to pass the legislation, said Pok Than, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education.
Another Council of Ministers meeting on Thursday yielded no further discussion on the subject, said a Council of Ministers official, who asked not to be named.
The Ministry of Education, international donors and representatives from various universities developed a draft law for the Council of Ministers to consider in August, but very little progress has been made, Thomas said.
“The Council of Ministers should pass the legislation. I am worrying about the growing schools that do not have the [accreditation]. When the quality is not there, we are creating a labor market that is not hirable,” Pok Than said.