Excellencies, Distinguished guests,
Esteemed faculty and students,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, I have the pleasure and the honor to participate in this inaugural ceremony of the University of Cambodia. This university is a new achievement in the private sector of education.
On the behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and on my own behalf, I wish to congratulate all the founders of this university whose effort and dedication in the creation of this institution further contribute to the field of higher education and to the enhancement and development of human resources in Cambodia.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate all the private institutions that have put forth so much effort, know-how, and capital in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports, in order to increase the quality of education which is one of Cambodia’s top priorities among all the priorities adopted by the Royal Government of Cambodia. In addition, the development of education has truly contributed in time to the Royal Government’s program and to the needs in the development of human resources and higher learning. This is considered a prime factor to enable Cambodia to compete with other ASEAN countries and in the world.
It is true that the Royal Government has clear policies and visions in the development of education, and most notably in the development of higher education. The Royal Government policy in the 1998-2003 second mandate has clearly underlined a national education program in all levels of learning, including higher education, which is considered by us as a top priority. In this case, the Royal Government has clearly determined in the sub-decree the criteria for the foundation of universities.
All higher education institutions must nurture and educate graduate students from the bachelor level on in order for them to pursue research and to cooperate with the international community in the fields of science, technology and culture, so that we may contribute to the development of the national economy, social developments, the protection of culture, and the national identity.
In the past, with my policy of the universalization of education, and with the reinforcement of partnership with the private sector, both at the local and international levels, which I put in place since the 1990s, we had been able to obtain good results. Several private and public institutions have been established and are making progress in providing knowledge, work experience and technical training. But despite all of this, the quality and efficiency of the training in higher education, both public and private, are still inadequate. Thus, I ask the leaders in higher education to closely collaborate with the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports to create an evaluation mechanism to control the quality of education, to monitor its process, to improve the curriculum, and most important, to shift from quantity to quality education in order to respond to the new demands of the labor market.
I wish to share my visions and concepts with you on how to improve the quality of higher education and to develop our human resources in a more effective manner:
1. Focus on the efficiency of higher education
The focus should be placed on the efficiency of higher education which should be linked to human resources. It is even more crucial at this point when our country is finding its place in the economy of the region and the international community, and is trying to enter the WTO. This necessitates quality human resources, both technical and professional, which along with creativity, are critical factors to insure a winning policy and the sustainability of this country’s development.
2. Education and training must go hand in hand with technological and scientific development, as well as information technology
Technological and scientific development and information technology are the foundation of knowledge and development. In this age of globalization, the human resources needed are those with the know-how in information technology and sciences. They will contribute to national development and economic advancement, and will help alleviate poverty. Thus we would like to request of all universities to focus on the education and training in technology, science and information technology in order to promote material production and technical knowledge.
3. Promotion of the capacity to compete in the free-market economy
From now on, academic disciplines addressing the competition in the free-market economy are the disciplines that need to be taken into consideration. As I mentioned earlier, our country is in the process of preparing the necessary conditions to participate in the free-market through its economic integration in the region, the international community and the WTO. If our human resources are incapable of participating in this competition, we will incur many problems. To surmount these difficulties, all higher education institutions must pay even more attention to the education and the training of human resources with the competence and quality of knowledge in the economic competition of the free market.
4. Culture, knowledge, research and publication
Books are the treasure of education. They can be placed among the best teachers of all the teachers in this world. Without books there can be no development, study or research. These precious books, containing knowledge on scientific inquiries, technology, philosophy, economics, politics, and culture, can be read in and outside of school, without time or money constraints. Therefore, higher education institutions must promote a reading culture, as well as research and publication within their own establishment, so that they can provide good resources and knowledge for the development of the country.
5. Life-long learning process
Human life is a life of endless learning. Without it, there can be no development. A life-long learning process is crucial to all cultures and to national development. In the scientific and technological fields especially, learning is endless for information is ever changing. Knowledge acquired today may become obsolete tomorrow. Therefore, we should consider the process of study and research as a continuous process, a pursuit that needs to be gradually perfected in the scientific and technological fields which are endlessly developed even beyond our imagination.
As such, I would ask all higher education institutions to advise, educate, disseminate and develop this life-long learning habit so that our students can be armed with knowledge and can fully participate in the development of our nation.
6. Preserving and maintaining our cultural identity and language
We all have a role in preserving and maintaining our national heritage. Our nation would be lost if our national identity were not preserved through the study of the Khmer culture, civilization, history, philosophy, literature, and language. If our students are not well educated in these disciplines, they cannot actively partake in the development of their nation. Therefore, I wish to take this opportunity to appeal to all higher education institutions to strongly promote the study of our culture, civilization, morality, philosophy, history, literature and language alongside the study of foreign languages, science and technology, in order to establish and preserve the foundation of our national identity.
7. Nurturing mind and virtue through education
We truly acknowledge that globalization and modern material development could impact the mind and virtue of our students if we have no proper measure to promote virtue and morality in education. Thus, along with the teaching and training of general knowledge, science and modern technology, all of our higher education institutions need to nurture and promote the development of virtue. Our nation has already and fully gained peace and stability. However, peace and real stability rely on virtuous minds, which are the product of an education based on common morality. The promotion of morals and virtue contributes to the building of peace, prosperity, fraternity, harmony and happiness for the people and the nation. I respectfully appreciate and would like to support the development of both morality and mind for our young intellectuals.
8. Development of higher education perspectives and long-term strategies
Prosperity and development in the field of education could not be achieved in one year, two years, or three years. It needs long-term development and strategies. A rice crop can be produced in months, but the education of students is a long-term process and requires a lifetime of commitment. Therefore without long-term perspectives and specific strategies, we would lose direction. Please note that our mission is to build human resources and leaders for the future who, at this time, need specialized knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Knowledge without mature experience cannot contribute to the development of the nation. Theory has to be grounded in real practice. Knowledge should be firmly linked to know-how. The connection between knowledge and know-how begins with the connection between academic establishments and the workplace.
9. Imagination is more powerful than knowledge
My final suggestion is to promote innovation and creativity. Our nation was highly creative in the past. This civilization flourished as a result of education and creativity. Our ancestors were great wise men, founders, educators and artists. Temples, stone carvings, scripts, treatises, philosophy, literature, music, songs, dances and poems, handed down from the past to the present, are the obvious evidence of spiritual production, a great spirit of creativity, and love of civilization. Without the excellent achievement of this civilization, a prosperous culture could not be seen. I would like to appeal to all of our universities to study and follow in the footsteps of our ancestors.
Please note that “imagination is more precious and more powerful than knowledge.” If one has only knowledge but no creativity nor wisdom, that knowledge is simply a decoration. It has no essence.
Once again, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and on my own behalf, I would like to express my support and appreciation for the founders of this university, who have spent much time and effort to establish a new and modern University of Cambodia in the true pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, and building tomorrow leaders.
Finally, I would like to wish all of you, Excellencies, distinguished national and international guests, esteemed faculty and students, ladies and gentlemen, good luck, prosperity, and happiness. On this delightful occasion, I wish to officially open the University of Cambodia. Thank you very much.