China / Education

Cambodia seeks education assistance from Beijing, official says

By Zhao Xinying and Yang Jun (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-31 07:49

Cambodia is looking for broad educational assistance through China's Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to forge closer relationships with countries along old trade routes, a senior education official said.

"We want to increase the number of Cambodian students who come to study in China, especially for science and technology, as well as for vocational and technical education," said Pit Chamnan, secretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

"It's the need of Cambodia's economic development in the next few years, and the need of our reform process in education," he said while attending the eighth China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week in China this month.

The China-ASEAN event, held in Guiyang, Guizhou province, has served since 2008 as a culture and education exchange channel between China and the countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

This year's event gathered dozens of education officials, experts and heads of educational institutions to share education practices and discuss future bilateral cooperation in education.

China began providing scholarships to students from Cambodia in 1998, and about 500 Cambodian students now are studying in China, most for bachelor's degrees in sought-after majors such as economics, civic engineering, agriculture, medicine and science and technology, Pit Chamnan said.

China's growing economy and rising education quality are attractive to Cambodian students, Pit Chamnan said.

He said he met some Cambodian students studying in Guiyang during his visit to China, and they told him that they were happy.

"I asked them what they thought about the universities and the education in China, compared with that of other countries. They are quite satisfied," he said.

"I think it's a very good sign that China is attracting students from Cambodia, because if the students are satisfied with the Chinese education, they may be good marketing for the education when they come back to Cambodia."

Cultural similarity

The short distance and cultural similarity is another attraction, Pit Chamnan said.

"It's easy for Cambodian people to come to China. Food isn't different and the climate is also quite similar to what we have in Cambodia. Our students won't have culture shock here," he said.

However, Pit Chamnan said there are still some challenges and difficulties facing educational cooperation between China and Cambodia, specifically in financing and language.

Some Cambodian students can't afford the tuition to study in China, he said. And since English courses have been very common among Cambodian students, they want courses taught in English if they study elsewhere.

"That's why I often talk to Chinese universities. I think they should have international courses, not only for Cambodian, but also for other international students," he said.

An increasing number of students in Cambodia, a former French colony, are realizing the benefits of learning Chinese, he said, adding that Chinese is now a dominant language after English.

"Many Cambodian families, rich or poor, want their children to have courses in it," Pit Chamnan said. "My son is also studying the Chinese language."

Pit Chamnan said the Cambodian government has set an ambitious goal of becoming a medium-income country by 2030 and becoming a developed country by 2050.

"The government of Cambodia will put a lot of resources and energy to education because only through education can we realize this goal as soon as possible," he said.

"That's also why I think people in Cambodia like the Belt and Road Initiative. It's a policy to forge a closer and stronger cooperative relationship on education between Cambodia and China."

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