PHNOM PENH, Nov. 16, (Khmer Times) – The Education Minister, Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, speaking today at the Cambodia Japan Cooperation Center, said that the education of young Cambodians is a priority in order to respond to the challenges and opportunities that will emerge from ASEAN integration.
With ASEAN’s next wave of integration scheduled for next year, both the public and private sectors in Cambodia are trying to make young people aware of the opportunities and constraints that will come with greater ASEAN integration, he said.
The Minister, addressing about 500 students at a forum on Youth and ASEAN Integration organized by the Enrich Institute, stressed that education is the key to improving Cambodia’s post-integration economy.
He said, “there are many phases of [ASEAN] integration. The first phase of integration will involve reducing the customs tax on products made for export by other ASEAN members”.
The Minister said that the second phase will be to establish a uniform rate of customs tax.
The third phase, Dr. Chuon Naron explained, will be to create unified markets.
Phase four will be to introduce a unified currency across the ASEAN community.
The minister stressed the need to strengthen the education system in order to provide the human resources that will be needed after ASEAN integration.
“If skilled and qualified professionals aren’t available, Cambodia won’t be able to attract the necessary investment,” Dr. Choun Naron explained.
The minister said that ASEAN integration will bring huge advantages to the group’s members, and in particular, to the economy of Cambodia. However a key challenge after integration is the potential flow of human resources from other ASEAN members into Cambodia.
Dr. Choun Naron pointed out that the economy of Cambodia has traditionally depended on garment manufacturing and the tourism, construction and agriculture sectors, which don’t demand a high level of skill from their workers.
Cambodia will, however, require skilled and qualified professionals to improve those sectors in the future.
“If Cambodia doesn’t have young people with good qualifications, the youth of other countries will take up the job opportunities, which will also inhibit the opportunity for young Cambodians to get jobs in other countries,” said Dr. Choun Naron.
The minister also voiced concerns that even after studying for and achieving a degree qualification, many young Cambodians still can’t get a job.
Dr. Choun Naron encouraged young people to get involved in voluntary work to improve their work experience and general knowledge.