PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – While visitors to Cambodia’s ancients sites increases every year, the number of archaeology students in Cambodia is decreasing.
Indeed, the nation’s boom in university enrollments is passing by the science that has made the Kingdom a worldwide attraction.
Archeology students worry that shrinkage in enrollments will eventually lead to course cancelations. They want the Education Ministry to encourage students to take up archeology, working in a country with thousands of unexplored sites.
One scholarship student at the Royal University of Fine Arts, Voeun Vibol Sokhom is witness to slumping interest.
“Only 18 students applied for 30 available scholarship places in archaeology,” said the 18-year-old freshman.
“Archeological study is valued in Western countries, but it is not valued in Cambodia, although this country has a lot of ancient artifacts and temples,” Mr. Sokhom said
He criticized the fact that well-to-do students, who have enough money to do research on archaeological sites, would rather take easier and more profitable classes – like accounting, and business management.
“I love this course very much, because archaeological research can help me learn more about my country’s history,” he said of his passion.
One Cambodian archeologist, Thuy Chanthourn, told Khmer Times that the decrease in student numbers continues year after year. He says students, fear that the field offers few jobs and the jobs are poorly paid, compared to private business.
“This course is only for people who love historical research and want to give historical value to the nation,” he said. “We cannot force students to take this class when we realize that there is less opportunity for them.”
“I still encourage them to learn and to invest more time reading history books,” Mr. Chanthourn said.
According to Mr. Sokhom, the student, the quality of teaching in the archaeology classes is very high because all of the professors are motivated to help Khmer people to cultivate their interest in history and to improve their skills in excavation and preservation of important historical sites.
“Professors teach me and other students very well,” he said. “Most of the professors who teach me are famous and graduated abroad. Even though they know that there are few students to take this class, the professors still take the time to teach us very well.”
Archaeology students compare their data during a field trip. Photo: Courtesy Department of Archaeology, RUFA