GUEST BLOGPOST – Students Need More Research Opportunities

GUEST BLOG POST: SOUN SOTHY, Cambodian Teacher of English

Sothy Soun was one of the first high school graduates supported by the Ponheary Ly Foundation. While pursuing an English degree at Pannasas Tra University, he teaches English to fifth and sixth grade students at Chey School. He also continues to take Global Citizen Media classes and was recently asked to oversee the Ponheary Ly Foundation’s Student Blog. His latest post examines the limited research opportunities available to Cambodians.

Old Documents at the Wat Damnak Library.

Old Documents at the Wat Damnak Library.

Cambodian students need a lot of books and documents to do research to improve our knowledge. Unfortunately, during the Khmer Rouge all of the important documents were lost. The Khmer Rouge destroyed schools, pagodas, hospitals, roads, and almost all of the libraries. Our important history documents were in these libraries.

Especially, the libraries in Phnom Penh were damaged.In my experience, now that I am a college student; I need to do a lot of research for my assignments every day. For example, I have recently needed to research the society of Angkor Wat when it was built. But I had a lot of trouble doing the research. In Siem Reap, there two public libraries: Wat Damnak and Pannassas University. These libraries have a variety of books that I can use for my research. However, I live in Pouk District, 15 kilometers from Siem Reap. Many students are like me and live in the countryside. So how can students who live far away from the town go to these libraries?

A solution to this problem would be build libraries in every school. But this is very expensive to do. According to the Cambodian Ministry of Education, 55 percent of the country’s 6,555 primary schools had libraries in 2011. However Kall Kann of the Room to Read NGO said most of these libraries have very few books. This situation affects the students’ ability to research. Another problem is that other students and I do not know how to find good books in the libraries. Sometimes there is a librarian, but they do not have the experience to help students, so we must find the books on our own.

Students research at Wat Damnak Library.

Students research at Wat Damnak Library.

Another solution would be to provide internet access for the students. Because the world of technology is developing so quickly, there is much information for us to access online. However, now students go to internet cafes in the villages, but they must spend money to do this. If the schools all had computers and the internet, students could research more easily. Still another problem will exist: the language that usually used in the internet is English and many students do not understand English well. One website that makes it possible for us to learn is Wikipedia Khmer. It is still small, but people are adding to it day by day.

Nowadays, fifty percent of the population is under the age of twenty. If we can all learn to research and have access to research materials, we can learn about what interests us in the world. Our fifty percent will improve our country very quickly with this new knowledge. As Mr. Sen says in his video, “We will take the opportunity to make a better future. A better future with technology.”

Sothy is a graduate of Pouck High School in Siem Reap Province and a Tchey School alumni. He is currently a student will enjoy at Pannasas Tra University and teaches English to 5th and 6th students at Tchey School. He continues to study technology through the Ponheary Ly Foundation. If he could go anywhere in the world for a visit, he would go to Australia to see the opera house.