Less than half of Cambodia’s 15 to 24-year-olds have completed primary school, according to Kim Sothorn, a research associate with the Cambodia Development Resource Institute.
Combining government statistics with fieldwork, Mr Sothorn identified challenges that Cambodia’s young people currently face and what problems the country might have to deal with in the future.
One of the biggest issues on the horizon is the large number of people entering the work force every year—300,000 people, although the number could become as high as 400,000—and the availability of jobs and the preparedness of young people for the job market.
“It will be a big burden for the government and NGOs,” he said of the mismatch between young people and the job market. “The education quality does not meet market needs,” he said.
Mr Sothorn’s presentation was part of the CDRI’s forum on research in Cambodia.
Kwok Kian-woon, head of sociology at the University of Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, outlined the research situation at Cambodian universities. He told the forum that the number of Cambodian students pursuing higher education has increased tenfold from 1996 to 2008, but universities were solely focused on teaching as opposed to student-based research projects.
The main problem, he said, making it hard to include research at universities in Cambodia, is the lack of government-funded projects, low wages for faculty members and a lack of capable mentors who can supervise research work.
Major consequences of students and faculty ignoring the research process include outdated curriculums, a decline in instructional quality, a loss of talent to the better-paying private sector, no external grants and a lack of national development, Mr Kwok said.
“[University leaders] said research is good to have but whether it is a must-have in the long run, it is unclear,” Mr Kian-woon added.