Cambodian Education Forum in 2020: Achievements, Challenges, and Way Forward

CEF Editorial Team
Cambodian Education Forum
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
December 31, 2020

The purpose of this short article is to provide a summary of the achievements that Cambodian Education Forum (CEF) has accomplished over the last six months since its inception in July 2020. The article also briefly discusses the challenges as well as the way forward to realize the vision and goals behind the establishment of CEF.

About Cambodian Education Forum

CEF was co-founded on July 1, 2020 by three emerging Cambodian scholars (Kimkong Heng, Sopheap Kaing, and Vutha Rose) who aspire to promote a culture of research and publication in Cambodia. The shared vision is to provide a publication platform for Cambodian researchers, educators, teachers, students, and administrators, especially novice and emerging writers, to express their views and share their perspectives on topics relevant to education in Cambodia and beyond.

CEF is still under development, but the vision behind this new initiative is ambitious and inclusive. The CEF team seeks to promote research and publication in Cambodia, particularly those conducted by Cambodian researchers, educators, and students.

CEF’s main aims are as follows:

  1. To provide a publication platform for Cambodian researchers, educators, and students
  2. To share knowledge and informed opinions about education in Cambodia
  3. To support Cambodian novice writers to publish through peer review, mentorship and editorial processes
  4. To publish essays, opinion pieces, and short articles about education in Cambodia and beyond
  5. To offer insights from education experts through interviews, discussion, and publication
  6. To share education-related resources to students, teachers, academics, and researchers
  7. To promote Cambodian image in the regional and international arena

Achievements

Since its establishment on July 1, 2020, CEF has supported a number of Cambodian students, teachers, and researchers through our peer review process, editorial support, internship, and mentorship. Our work has involved bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctoral students, schoolteachers, university lecturers, and researchers. These diverse groups of people have engaged with us as contributing authors, reviewers, and editors.

Currently, the CEF editorial team comprises three co-editors (Kimkong Heng, Sopheap Kaing, and Vutha Ros) and one associate editor (Koemhong Sol). CEF also has a pool of around 20 regular peer reviewers who are supporting our peer review process to enhance the quality of our publication. We have regularly received submissions of articles from a range of contributors, most of whom obtained or are currently pursuing a master’s or PhD degree in Cambodia or overseas. We have recently recruited 10 interns to join our six-month internship program. We aim to provide them with opportunities to learn and work with us to improve their writing and communication skills in a supportive learning environment. Our internship program is supported by four guest editors (Bunhon Doeu, Nicholas Hemingway, Makara Muong, and Samnang Yen).

Thus far, CEF has published one edited book and 33 articles. There are several articles currently under review and a few are being edited for publication. Excitingly, CEF is planning to launch an academic journal called Cambodian Journal of Educational Research (CJER). Moreover, the team has recently announced a call for book chapters to be included in a proposed book, entitled “Best Practices in Online Teaching and Learning During COVID-19: A Cambodian Perspective”.

Notably, CEF has recently upgraded its website from www.cambodianeducationforum.wordpress.com to www.cefcambodia.com. The CEF team is committed to providing mentoring and writing support to Cambodian students, teachers, and researchers, particularly novice and emerging writers and researchers. All of the efforts and hard work are to contribute to building a strong research and publication culture in Cambodia.

Challenges

All of the achievements we have accomplished are not without challenges. Our editorial team is made up of four PhD candidates. No doubt, each of us has to focus on our primary work, that is, to complete our PhD research. It is, therefore, extremely challenging to juggle a PhD research study and continue to provide support to the contributors who submit their articles to CEF.

There are other challenges as well. As Heng et al. (2020) noted, in working to support novice Cambodian writers and researchers to publish their work, the CEF team faced a number of challenges, ranging from email correspondence with the contributing authors and reviewers to challenges linked with the contributors’ academic writing skills. Heng et al. wrote:

Although there are challenges related to our email correspondence with them, major challenges we have faced are mainly linked with their general academic writing skills, particularly language use, word choices, referencing and citation skills (both in-text and reference list), coherence and cohesion, and the use of reference sources. (p. 127)

Specifically, Heng et al. (2020) stressed that they faced considerable challenges in relation to (a) the contributing authors’ use of less credible sources as references, (b) a general lack of interest in writing and publication by many potential contributors who either ignored or rejected CEF’s invitation to contribute an article, and (c) the amount of time and efforts needed to improve the quality of the submissions.

In addition, there are also financial and human resources challenges. The main financial challenges are to do with the maintenance of the CEF website. Although we have spent our own pocket money to upgrade our website, we are seeking funding or donation to run and sustain it. In this respect, we are calling for financial support from any individual or organization to help us support other Cambodian writers and researchers in their research and publication endeavors.

The way forward

Moving forward, we are committed to continuing our hard work to contribute to developing a vibrant research culture in Cambodia. As we have argued in our edited book (Heng et al., 2020), one viable approach to nurture a healthy research culture in Cambodia is to “offer ample opportunities for young writers and novice researchers to write and publish their work so that they will be able to learn the ropes of academic publishing” (pp. 129-130).

When more and more people write and publish their work either in local or international publication outlets, positive momentum for research is created. This momentum is vital to foster a research culture in a resource-deficient environment such as Cambodia as it is part of the larger academic community of practice (see Keuk, 2015). Moreover, to nurture a strong research culture, we need to build a home-grown research culture (Heng & Rautakivi, 2020), promote stakeholder collaboration (Heng, 2020; Nhem, 2020; Sam & Dahles, 2017), address policy misalignment (Ros & Oleksiyenko, 2018), and develop an institutional and social environment conducive for research (see CICP, 2016; Heng, 2019; Kwok et al., 2010).  

Overall, as Heng et al. (2020) noted, “there is a long way to go for a strong research and publication culture in Cambodia to take shape” (p. 129). Certainly, a lot needs to be done to foster the development of a vibrant Cambodian research culture. However, with contributions and efforts from all stakeholders, there is reason to believe that a striving research culture in Cambodia will develop. As the team behind Cambodian Education Forum, we are doing our part to contribute to this cause, and we encourage others to do their part as well. With active involvement from all actors, we hope we will be able to see a flourishing research culture in Cambodian society in the near future.

References

CICP (Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace). (2016). Doing research in Cambodia: Making models that build capacity. Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. http://www.cicp.org.kh/userfiles/file/Publications/Final-Report-Doing-Research-in-Cambodia-23-March-2016.pdf

Heng, K. (2019, May 23). Building a research culture in Cambodia. Khmer Times. https://www.khmertimeskh.com/606862/building-a-research-culture-in-cambodia/

Heng, K. (2020). Stakeholder collaboration: The key to promoting academic research in Cambodia. Cambodia Development Center, 2(20), 1-5. https://cd-center.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/P124_20201116_V2IS20_EN.pdf

Heng, K., Kaing, S., Ros, V., & Sol, K. (2020). English language teaching, education, and online learning in Cambodia during COVID-19: Perspectives from practitioners and researchers. Cambodian Education Forum. https://cefcambodia.com/2020/12/29/english-language-teaching-education-and-online-learning-in-cambodia-during-covid-19/

Heng, K., & Rautakivi, T. (2020). Nurturing a vibrant research culture in Cambodia: Without a home-grown research culture, there is no research development. Cambodia Development Center, 2(21), 1-4. https://cd-center.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/P124_20201211_V2IS21_EN.pdf

Keuk, C. N. (2015). Investigating communities of practice and ELT teacher research in Cambodia (Doctoral dissertation, Macquarie University). http://www.researchonline.mq.edu.au/vital/access/manager/Repository/mq:44046

Kwok, K.-W., Chan, S., Heng, C., Kim, S., Neth, B., & Thon, V. (2010). Scoping study: Research capacities of Cambodia’s universities. The Development Research Forum in Cambodia. http://hdl.handle.net/10625/48372

Nhem, D. (2020). Building a research culture in Cambodian higher education: Three moves in research collaboration. Cambodia Development Center, 2(22), 1-6.https://cd-center.org/en/building-a-research-culture-in-cambodian-higher-education-three-moves-in-research-collaboration/

Ros, V., & Oleksiyenko, A. (2018). Policy misalignments and development challenges in the Cambodian academic profession: Insights from public university lecturers. Higher Education Policy, 31(1), 19-35. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41307-017-0043-y  

Sam, C., & Dahles, H. (2017). Stakeholder involvement in the higher education sector in Cambodia. Studies in Higher Education, 42(9), 1764-1784. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1124851

The Author

CEF Editorial Team comprises three co-editors (Kimkong Heng, Sopheap Kaing, and Vutha Ros) and one associate editor (Koemhong Sol).

Note. This article can be cited as follows:

Heng, K., Kaing, S., Ros, V., & Sol, K. (2020). Cambodian Education Forum in 2020: Achievements, challenges, and way forward. Cambodian Education Forum. https://cefcambodia.com/2020/12/31/cambodian-education-forum-in-2020-achievements-challenges-and-way-forward/

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