[Cambodia] Open Space #1: Opportunities and Challenges of Distance Learning
The Covid-19 pandemic poses a significant challenge for the education system in Cambodia, a country where internet penetration stood at only 58 percent as of January this year. The effectiveness of distance learning as the common teaching practice amid pandemic is undone by the inequality of internet access between urban dan rural areas in Cambodia. Distance learning in the Southeast Asian country is also hampered by the extremely slow internet connections in remote areas and the common occurrences of a nationwide electrical outage. This education problem prompted the ASEAN Youth Forum to hold an open space via a Zoom meeting for the young Cambodians to explore the challenges and opportunities of distance learning in their country.
The open space, which was held on September 27, had successfully attracted 14 participants who were both students and teachers from eight different provinces. During the event, participants raised issues on distance learning that include low student commitments, limited digital literacy among senior teachers, and the lack of necessary equipment for online learning among students. However, as shown in the survey done after the discussion, a large share of participants (40 percent) agreed that the lack of self-discipline among students is the primary problem. Meanwhile, from the students’ point of view, distance learning is not sufficient because of the poor internet connections and the inability to catch-up online lectures.
However, distance learning can also have the potential to bring more opportunities for Cambodian students. One participant, who was also a teacher, said that distance learning pushes him to be more creative in his teaching while allowing parents to monitor their child’s learning. Other teachers also agreed that distance learning has expanded access to learning opportunities that allow students to gain knowledge and meet more people. Students also shared that they are able to gain access to lectures from foreign experts and receive learning materials more easily. Additionally, most participants (47 percent) concurred that the pandemic has opened up opportunities for the Cambodian government to modernize the education system.
Ultimately, the open space was able to extend a safe space for Cambodian youths to voice their perspectives and learn from each other over the topic of opportunities and challenges of distance learning.
Here are some highlights from the session
I am both a teacher and a university student. In my perspective as a teacher, I find that most of my students do not commit to learning. Meanwhile, internet access is still very limited, especially in remote areas. As a student, I find that distance learning is challenging because many of my classmates do not follow the in-house rules. Distance learning pushes teachers to adapt themselves to changes and be more creative in their teaching.
Poor internet connection makes it hard for me to learn via Zoom.
The language barrier, internet access, and working in groups are the challenges I am having. Firstly, studying at university, I have to use English, which is a problem for me in catching up on the lesson. Secondly, I also have an issue with Internet access mostly during the exam period when I have to find a place where the Internet works well. Finally, it is hard for me to communicate and do group work online. If I can meet up with my group mates and discuss things with them, it is easier and more effective.
Most teachers are old and they are not accustomed to using technology. On the other hand, I think there are a lot of opportunities for youth to learn because distance learning gives us more short courses for free that students can strengthen their ability and can learn any subjects anywhere anytime
Distance learning provides me with access to a lecture from the executive board from Singapore, whom my teacher invited, which is something I never experienced before.