Hey Folks! Jay Gabbard here with a response to the following question.
#7: How did this conference change your understanding of development in Cambodia? Concretely summarize several things that you have learned as a result of the seminar presentations, Q&A and multi-national small group discussions.
First off, I just want to say that the conference was a success and that we got a chance to hear on a number of interesting topics by students from all around Cambodia as well as Korea. So from what I heard, how was my understanding of development in Cambodia changed? Well, initially I came with limited knowledge on the areas of development that are needed. I basically just thought about agricultural development, water purification, and feeding the hungry. But topics like education, foreign direct investment, corporate social responsibility, international trade law, effects of globalization, independent judiciary, freedom of NGO’s, and the threats of industrialized agriculture were all brought discussed in detail.
Just to mention a few things I learned as a result of the presentations, one thing is that I realized how important it is for NGO’s to be registered within Cambodia. Presenters on the issue asked whether registration should be optional? After some comments and further questions, the audience came to the conclusion that registration protects the NGO as well as makes it accountable. If registration is optional, things like financial reports are optional and corruption can sneak in easily. I also was very interested in international trade law and the strengths and weaknesses Cambodian holds on the issue. Strengths included things like low labor cost, profit/import tax exemption, and the natural resources and cultural heritage. Weaknesses included the lack of skill/ knowledge/technology, poor transportation, and infrastructure.
At the end of both days of the conference, we got the chance to break off into small groups. I found this to be more valuable than the presentations for the reason that I got to ask Cambodians the questions I wanted answered and they gave me their whole hearted opinions that I could tell wanted to be shared. When we talked about their education system for example, we found out that many times teachers do not get paid a high enough salary causing them to seek a second job. To cope with this, they only commit half days to teaching meaning school is only 4 hours a day. Every year students are required to pass an exam to assess their learning abilities and whether they are ready for the next level. For most students, the 4 hours of school they go to everyday is not enough for them to be capable to pass the exam. They therefore have to pay a teacher to give them extra assistance outside of regular school hours. As you can expect, students may not be able to afford this assistance and can either lose motivation or even drop out. So what do they want to see happen? They want teachers salaries to rise so that 8 hour school days can be in effect.
I would love to talk more but others are waiting to blog! We have about 2 computers, low connectivity, and busy days so be patient with us! Thanks for reading! Packers, I will always love you.