Thursday, November 3, 2011

D.E.A.R. Campaign at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia

D.E.A.R. Campaign at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia
“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.” ~ Mortimer Adler

D.E.A.R. stands for Drop Everything And Read. D.E.A.R. Campaign started in early March of 2011 after several groups of students from my Cultural Anthropology class conducted a study relating to the culture of reading in Cambodia. After interviewing and observing students from different universities, the results were discouraging and depressing. Cambodian students basically don’t like to read. Most often, a majority of all university students come unprepared because they are not taught to read the required textbook and supplemental materials prior to class, which are part of real and advanced learning. Much of this is due to our failing to instill within them a habit and a passion for reading. Reading gives students knowledge to tackle all the problems in life and is a vital component for academic success. Reading is learning. Reading is thinking. Reading is creating. Reading is discovering. The development of paññā (analytical wisdom) starts with reading.

Since reading is one of the most common obstacles to academic success, a group of volunteer students at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia (PUC) would like to plant the nascent seeds of reading culture to all students. D.E.A.R. Campaign involved all students and faculties at PUC to value reading. It encourages all students to read as much as possible. Students could also select their favorite reading materials during their free time. The whole idea is that everyone will develop the intrinsic interest in reading and make it a priority. The goal of D.E.A.R. Campaign is to uphold all students to read more. If we are going to get the students thinking, we need to get them reading.

By promoting this campaign, we could help improve the reading culture at PUC with the hope of improving the reading culture in Cambodia (according to World Bank, Cambodia literacy rate, estimated to around 78%, is one of the lowest levels in ASEAN, second only to Laos). Students have to start cherishing quality education that begins with reading. This campaign has helped them learn how important reading is for their academic success. Study shows that a good reading habit is a prerequisite to better learning. Furthermore, developing the greater reading culture will supplement and strengthen the culture of excellence.

All of us can make a big difference by promoting and developing the reading culture in the hearts and minds of ALL students as well as ALL people throughout Cambodia. Reading is the light to fight darkness. We want everyone, not just the young but also people at any age, to enjoy reading.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Quality of Education in Cambodia

Pictures of Children in Cambodia

Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.
- John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

If Cambodia is to achieve the lofty goals as quoted above, it is imperative that Cambodia establishes a high standard of quality with equal access to learning to all citizens. According to World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal Committee, 26-28 April 2000, a good quality education requires:

• Healthy, well nourished and motivated students,
• Well-motivated and professionally competent teacher,
• Active learning techniques,
• A relevant curriculum,
• Adequate, environmentally friendly and easily accessible facilities,
• Healthy, safe and protective learning environments,
• A clear definition and accurate assessment of learning outcomes, including knowledge, skills, attitude and values,
• Participatory governance and management, and
• Respect for and engagement with local communities and cultures.

In Cambodia, education is a work in progress. Based on the inadequate inputs (curriculum, learning materials, teachers, principals and other educational resource persons, learning facilities and environment), the poor process of teaching-learning to reach educational goals and objectives, the deficient output (many students graduated with no real knowledge) compounded with the amount of money allocated to education and the lack of determination, there is doubt about the government commitment to improve the quality of education and provide equal access to all its citizens. However, if Cambodia is to take leapfrog forward to improve its education system, it must translate those lofty goals into lofty actions by providing equity and quality education (eliminate the culture of cheating and provide the culture of real learning) for the benefit of all Cambodian people, and not just for the privileged urban population. The government must also develop a feedback mechanism that accepts and empowers constructive criticism on evaluating if the system succeeds or fails in achieving goals and objectives.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy 2555 Khmer New Year and a reflection

As Khmer New Year approaches, it is time to reflect on one of the controversial topic of money. Around the world, people use money to buy material possessions. Money is used also in exchange for other things. The power of having money is unlimited. Money can make the world go round. But some of the richest people in life do not have money. What makes someone rich? Their bank account? Their savings? The bottom line? What if the bottom line was a tally of friendships made, of families gathered, of sunsets watched, of laugh shared or of communities helped? Love, compassion and friendship have value too. Generosity is more important than profit. What if everyone tried to maximize that kind of bottom-line. One thing is for sure. The world would be richer for it.

HAPPY KHMER NEW YEAR TO ALL and may you find and enjoy real peace, real harmony, and real happiness.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The art of volunteerism: “One Who Gives Makes Many Friends” Sutta-Nipāta

Volunteer Students' Activities

“One Who Gives Makes Many Friends” Sutta-Nipāta

In Cambodia, I often see beggars, orphans, and homeless children that are living with desperate poverty with or without parents to take care of them. These children do not have the fortune to be born in a rich family, and they need help. They never know what personal hygiene is. Their bodies are covered with dirt from the head to toe. They never have proper clothes to wear, they walk barefoot, nor do they have a nutritious meal to eat. They may be poor, but they want to live a good life like all of us. They also have the right to get an education and to enjoy a better life in the future.

To make a difference, a group of volunteer university students, led by Say Seyhean, had an ambitious plan. They worked together to cultivate generosity. They created a project, “I Help You, You Help Others.” This project means that if I Help You, You Help another person, and another person will help another person. Then, through this act of good deeds, this world will be better, more peaceful and prosperous.

On a beautiful Sunday 13th February 2011, more than 150 volunteer university students of Phnom-Penh woke up at 5:00AM, joined together and went to Primary School Toul Svay Roth, Lom Peng Preah Ream Village, Tran Paing Korn Commune, Samrong Toung District, Kompong Speu Province to implement their project. They reached back and wanted to help those in dire needs.

These disadvantaged one hundred and sixteen children (6-12 years old) at this primary school were lack of personal hygiene and didn’t have proper school clothes to wear, and nutritious food to eat. They needed help, love and support from all of us. Despite the fact that volunteer work does not provide them any income, these students wanted to do something for those children. And, since they cannot be there all the time with them, they wanted to make the difference in those children life at least once. They volunteered their time to teach these children how to wash their hands and to take care of their personal hygiene. They gave all these children a bath and washed them from head to toe, shampooed their hair, cut their nails and brushed their teeth. Then, they issued them a new school uniform. After Venerable Sanghabodhi taught the five Buddha precepts, they feed them with nutritious food. They also entertained those children with traditional songs and plays. These volunteer students made the children smile and let them know they were not alone. They have made a personal and lasting contribution by leaving a legacy of their good deeds toward these deprived children. They delighted in giving.

Whenever I look back on the impact the volunteer students have made on those children at the primary school, I am so inspired and touched by their unselfish actions and passion – for the project they worked on, the children they help alongside, and, most importantly for the difference they have made to their own lives. These volunteer students were so eager and had so much to offer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

7th January 1979 Revisited: Liberation and Alienation

The last Vietnamese troops were said to have left Cambodia in 26 September 1989 but probably they did not leave until 1990 (source Wikipedia: People's Republic Of Kampuchea)

7th January 1979 Revisited: Liberation and Alienation

Depending on which side you were on, Cambodia either fell on 7th January 1979 under the Vietnamese occupation or it was liberated by the same Vietnamese troops. Inside Cambodia, today is marked as liberation day, but outside, most Cambodian called resentment day (the resentment of losing a country).

As a teacher, I have an obligation to give the students an objective account of the real issues of Cambodia based on my personal experiences. You may not agree with what I have to say about the recorded historitical event of 7th January 1979, but I know that all of us would agree, in the liberty to express diverse opinions that real democracy and freedom are secure.

To avoid any bias and ambiguity, it is noteworthy to acknowledge and recognize this historitical date as a source of liberation, a new “birthday”, a fresh epoch from the cruelest Khmer Rouge Regime but also of Vietnamese invasion, occupation and alienation of Cambodia. Ending the Pol Pot’s regime was essential, but replacing the atrocious regime with alienation was not right and illegal. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Vietnamese troops for their help; however, we oppose their self-interested ideology to occupy us.
The selfish Vietnamese had a different agenda besides helping the current government liberated Cambodia from darkness. They wanted to colonize and control us once again. The Vietnamese troops remained in Cambodia until 1989, a decade-long occupation, alienation which a coalition of anti-Vietnamese Cambodian forces, including FUNCINPEC lead by former King Norodom Sihanouk, KPNLF (Khmer People National Liberal Front) lead by former Prime Minister Son San, and the Khmer Rouge, established bases inside Thailand and engaged in gory civil war with the Hanoi backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) government of Phnom-Penh.

Lastly, it is also noteworthy to state the Paris Peace Accord on 23rd October 1991, brought peace and democracy to Cambodia with all the political parties. The current government dropped the 23rd October 1991 national holiday in 2005 and chose 7th January 1979 instead.