Due to the conceptual complexity of mathematics, the universal agreement on its definition is highly-debated. Simply put, it is commonly understood that mathematics is about numbers. Going deeper, mathematics is a subject of deductive reasoning and logic, concerning a fundamental abstract object. In the context of Cambodia with its high development potential, mathematics education will be crucial for equipping its young population to drive its national industries.
Mathematics and Industrial Growth
Mathematics is the fundamental pillar of science and technology. The book entitled “Mathematik Motor der Wirtschaft” emphasises that “without mathematics nothing is possible. It is like walking in the dark.” The ideal of mathematics through the development of science and time remains unchanged from its birth in 3000 BCE recorded in Egypt, to the history of modern society. The rise of many great civilisations was the result of richness in mathematical sciences. Dating back to 683 CE, engineers of the Khmer Empire used the Zero concept in building its majestic Angkor Complex.
Placing a high value on mathematics is the way of enlightening development and sustainability in an innovative technological strategy. In the modern society of industry-driven development, mathematics plays a crucial role as a logically coherent framework and language for analysis, simulation, optimisation, computation, and process control. There are endless emerging technology applications that require mathematics such as Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, FinTech, etc.
Mathematics is ingrained in nature, taking shape of snail shells, spider webs, beehives, and other complex but beautiful natural architectures. Incontestably, industrial production and efficiency have increased significantly in these last few decades and mathematical tools will be the core of data science in this revolution. Mathematical concepts combined with Information Technology in statistics, scientific computing, system technology, automation and control, image analysis, data analysis, optimisation, simulation and modelling, and data visualisation are significantly applied in the development of industry and business enterprises. Thus, this industrial development driven by innovation will rely heavily on applied mathematics. The essence of mathematics has been consistently acknowledged in human history. The sustainability of our society, environment, and economy would not be secured without the incorporation of mathematics into our future development strategies. To promote relevant mathematical applications to end users, the basic research of mathematics must be institutionalised. Industrial mathematics plays an inevitable role in strengthening supply chains and boosting competition. Industry 4.0 is challenging the current status of productive processes and decision-making of many companies and industries. The augmented era of Industry 4.0 will strive based on significant contributions from mathematicians and corresponding policies for multifaceted training of mathematics, to achieve sustainable growth of production and consumption.
Increasingly, complex problems in businesses and industries will require mathematical expertise. Big data analysis would not be possible without proper integration of computational mathematics in analysis models. Industry 4.0 requires the knowledge of mathematical analysis of data to utilise data and information for decision-making to return the highest profit and efficiency. Consequently, the strong linkage between industrial manufacturers and mathematicians drives sustainable business growth.
The value of mathematicians and mathematical education must be leveraged within a supportive ecosystem. Encouraging and inspiring the young generation of Cambodians to become interested in mathematics through formal and informal education is key to Cambodia’s future industries. Thus, strong communication channels between academia and industry are essential, so that academic learning outcomes cater to national industry needs. Mathematical thinking and reasoning must be fostered as a fundamental pillar of education. For instance, mathematics teachers in school should involve more engineering problems encountered in real- life industry settings such as signal processing, computer graphics, risk management, system reliability, software testing and verification, database systems, and production line optimisation, with emphasis on problem solving – not just pure theory.
Harnessing Mathematics to Develop Cambodia
Mathematics on a simpler level, still drives the most important sectors of Cambodia, including tourism, garment, agriculture, and construction. At the next level of economic growth, Cambodia needs to move into the industrial sector, where mathematics is already essential in supporting our existing industries but will be even more crucial as we move towards automation and data exchange in Industry 4.0 and beyond.
In Cambodia, there is a common local stigma that an academic path in mathematics will not generate much income and only lead to one profession: a mathematics teacher. This peculiar misconception has pushed countless potential students away from studying mathematics over the years. This mentality must change now – studying mathematics will indeed provide an individual with sound logic and mental sharpness that would be beneficial in whichever career they may choose, even outside the realm of mathematics. Scholarships should be provided for top mathematics students, more national mathematics competitions should be organised, and mathematics clubs should be established in all school – in order to promote interest in mathematics and its significance for Cambodia’s development.
The era of mathematical capitalism has come. The importance of mathematics for the industry has not yet been fully realised in our current context. Yet, it has been observed as crucial for the development scheme of all societies in history. The digital era calls for mathematical skills and expertise, more than ever before. Cambodia will need mathematics to drive our industries, increase our global competitiveness, and even protect our nation. Although we may not be able to exactly pinpoint the fields of expertise we should focus on to further develop Cambodia; starting with a strong foundation in mathematics from a young age will provide the next generation with strong logical reasoning and problem-solving skills, to drive Cambodia’s future industries.
HUL Seingheng is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Inclusive Digital Economy (CIDE) of the Asian Vision Institute (AVI). Concurrently, he is the Director General of the General Department of Science, Technology, and Innovation (GDSTI) at the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MISTI).
CHHEM Siriwat is the Director of CIDE, AVI.
This article was originally published via the Centre for Inclusive Digital Economy (CIDE) of the Asian Vision Institute (AVI).