Khmer Times: New STEM skill programme prepares students for global competition

Khmer Times

After years of promoting the benefits of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in high school education, young Cambodians are seen to be sharpening their skills to keep pace with the rest of the world.

Ros Daro, a teacher in the pilot E2STEM school programme, being trialled at the Preah Yukunthor High School in Phnom Penh, says young people who study in the programme become competent when they realise the benefits and use of STEM skills.

The Ministry of Education is trying to encourage students and young people to become aware of the necessity of STEM competencies. To date, STEM provides many opportunities in the local job markets for young Cambodians and so having these skills makes it easier to deal with a variety of issues that one faces in daily life.

Daro says: “Generally, when students learn math or other skills through a normal classroom programme, it is only based on theory with students learning formulas, but through the new STEM skill programme it encourages them to further practice on their own,”

He says that in the beginning students find it difficult to study STEM skills if they have not had the opportunity to practice. However, once they have practised them numerous times they begin to understand that STEM skills are actually not that difficult, and this process also accelerates their ability to comprehend STEM theory.

He adds that this factor changes the students’ perspective on STEM skills and helps to attract a lot of students.

A clear example of the students’ use of STEM skills in the E2STEM programme at Preah Yukunthor School is a hygienic protective barrier for COVID-19. Daro says that because of the COVID-19 crisis, students had to protect themselves from infection, and so a group of them came up with the idea of designing a hygienic protective barrier for the tables.

Daro says all the students need is an idea of something that they want to create and submit a project proposal, so as to request material assistance from the school.

There are also some other factors that encourage students to become passionate about STEM according to Daro, and one of these is participating in competitions as many students find this inspirational.

“In the past, the school sent a group of students to compete in Dubai so that they could showcase their abilities as well as learn about the abilities of young people in other countries. This year is the second year E2STEM students will participate with other young people from more than 100 countries around the world,” says Daro.

Now, the 12 members of the student team representing Cambodia in the virtual 2020 FIRST Global Challenge are students from Preah Yukunthor High School, who are assembling a prototype robot that is able to assist humans in their daily work.

Nhep Ponhrith, team coordinator, says participating in such international programmes has helped the team members strengthen their knowledge of STEM and other soft skills.