Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, President of The University of Cambodia
Dr. Kao opened by welcoming all Cambodian and international guests to The University of Cambodia, as host for the Final Conference of CONTESSA in Cambodia. He noted that the past four years have involved much time and effort for those involved in a project which aims to further the development of teaching skills in Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The result is a teacher training programme which provides high-quality contemporary education that will ultimately equip current and future teachers with the digital and other skills needed to develop a wide range of didactic methods which they can in turn use to engage, empower and educate their students. He thanked the EU and Erasmus+ for their generous support in helping to achieve this goal.
Dr. Sam-Ang Sam, Chancellor of Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia
Dr. Sam expressed his gratitude to the EU Eramus+ and the CONTESSA team for developing the 5 modules, saying that they will be essential materials to make teacher education in Cambodia more effective. He noted that there are four pillars to the education system in Cambodia: the transfer of knowledge, skills, jobs and living. The CONTESSA programme marks an importane component in reinforcing these, and thus will benefit students and build capacity for the future.
Mr. Bryan Fornari, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation
Mr. Fornari reported that the EU together with its member states has played an important part in helping to support education and other sectors in Cambodia since the 1990s, to help the empowerment of her people. Thus the EU has contributed over €240 million over the past 20 years in grants as well as the support of large projects, one of the latest of which is the CONTESSA project. Cambodians now have almost universal acces to education, despite the recent impact of COVID-19; now the emphasis is on the need to improve the quality of teaching, from the primary level upwards.
Reflecting its being named after a Dutch humanist philosopher who travelled extensively throughout western Europe in the 15th century Reneaissance, the original aim of the Erasmus system was to provide support for exchange students to travel within the EU, as a means to increase a sense of unity and integration. It was subsequently expanded to include other countries. Thus 47 Camboian students have had the opportunity to join exchange programmes with EU countries since 2015. Also programmes involving 30 Cambodian universities have allowed these to engage with others in the region and in Europe, thereby enhancing connectivity.
Mr. Fornari was very pleased that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport was actively involved in realising the project. He encouraged all Cambodian educational institutions to apply for other EU-funded projects to make sure that Cambodia can benefit from the opportunities available.
Prof. Meas Nearyroth, Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia and CONTESSA National Coordinator
This slot was originally scheduled for Dr. Sandra Hummel, overall CONTESSA Project Coordinator; however she was unfortunately not able to attend due to being infected with SARS-2.
Speaking in Khmer, Prof. Meas noted that PUC hosted the Kick-Off event which got the project off the ground. This was followed by a period where team members from Cambodia and Europe visited primary schools to meet the teachers and see the classroom environment, as part of a needs analysis. After helping to prepare parts of some of the modules, these have been integrated into parts of PUC’s BA in TESOL programme. After meetings of the PUC and UC teams with the management boards of the Departments of Teacher Training and Primary Education at MoEYS, there was a very encouraging meeting with the minister, Dr. Hang Chhoun Naron. Based on this, partners are working with MoEYS to finalise the Khmer version of each module.
Dr. Angus Munro, The University of Cambodia and CONTESSA Institutional Coordinator
Dr. Munro provided a brief overview of the development and some aspects of the implementation of the CONTESSA project in Cambodia over the past four years. The slide presentation is available here.
Dr. Nith Bunlay, Deputy Director-General of Higher Education Department, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport
Dr. Nith noted that the CONTESSA project fits in well with MoEYS‘ Vision 2030 and 2050 and the drive towards emphasising the quality rather than the quantity of graduating students: those who will help to further boost Cambodia’s growth and development. He also noted that it was encouraging that this project was the first to involve higher education institutions in the private sector, with increased connectivity and the ability to work together with other overseas universities to develop a product which can be implemented to develop the capacity of the primary education subsector. The results promise to be very beneficial once the Khmer translations are finalised: the material is on-line and open-source, so that it can be customised to suit teachers‘ needs.
He concluded that the project fits in well with what MoEYS aims to achieve and thanked the team, hoping that they will maintain the momentum and continue with future projects. MoEYS will be sure to provide technical and other support to help to ensure the sustainability of the project.
Dr. Kann Puthy, Deputy Director, Primary Education Department, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport
Speaking in Khmer, Dr. Kann said that the project was very good for not only new but also existing teachers to further develop their abilities. This is especially the case given the drive since 2013 to improve teaching standards; the CONTESSA project provides one way to achieve this important objective. However he noted that the translations of the Khmer versions of the CONTESSA modules needed to be updated: his and the CONTESSA teams are working on ensuring that the correct technical terms and phrases are used in order to make sure that readers can understand the texts easily .
Mrs. Hun Makara, Vice Director, Siem Reap Regional Teacher Education Center
Speaking in Khmer, Mrs. Hun Makara said that, based on the workshop which PUC and UC held at her RTEC, the CONTESSA programme could be integrated into the teaching with IBL and LS there. She was very happy because the teacher trainers and trainees now can have more choices for efficient and effective teaching and learning practices. Thus those involved in the project had tried to understand the present primary education system and provided constructive ideas about how to further improve it through creative teaching approaches.
Mr. Chey Khav, Paññāsāstra International School
Speaking in Khmer, Mr. Chay Khav described how the CONTESSA programme was helping in teaching practice at the primary school level and ways to promote student-centered learning effectively.
Dr. Thomas Köhler, Technical University of Dresden and project advisor
Dr. Köhler noted that COVID-19 had accelerated the development of virtual teaching-learning environments. He moved on to consider some of the theoretical issues relating to the move towards ICT and the resulting organisational ones which have emerged as a result of this transition to 21st century teaching and learning. Such virtual projects require the development of suitable platforms. Achieving this needs patterns of cooperation in order to be sustainable: with the likes of the CONTESSA project, this requires multinational, multilocal and multilingual coordination with the development of a hybrid on-line network to meet different partners‘ needs.
However there are various issues arising. Most notable are the different layers of involvement in establishing and sustaining such an initiative, whether at the global or just the local level. Thus effective networking involves not just teachers and their students but also administration and management oversight to accomodate this extra dimension to existing practices.
The shared slide presentation of Dr. Köhler and Mr. Jalilov is available here.
Mr. Orkhan Jalilov, Technical University of Dresden and project advisor
Following on this, Mr. Javilov briefly considered the means for technical implementation and testing of an e-learning course in such a virtual environment. First there is the need to develop the appropriate courseware, so that the content can help teachers to understand and develop their skills with regard to learner-centred education practices. Therafter, there is the the need to gather feedback about these pilot courses in order to further fine-tune them based on users‘ experiences and identifying what needs improving before the materials are finalised for general use.
Prof. Gina Lopez, The University of Cambodia
In her brief closing remarks, Prof Lopez noted that the CONTESSA project had been timely in that would help Cambodia to develop her human resources for the new business environment through encouraging independent learning and the development of entrepreneurship. It was also timely with the move towards distance learning as a result of COVID-19. She concluded by thanking the EU and Erasmus+ for their financial support for the project; and the organisers and presenters for a most productive and insightful conference.