Request for a Basic Science Laboratory

Tuesday 25 February 2014 02:19:13

Request for a Basic Science Laboratory

Robust growth over the past two decades has put Cambodia on the road to recovery. Industrial development calls for high-skilled workers to gain a competitive edge and continue Cambodia’s development miracle. The University of Cambodia recognizes the critical need to cultivate new talent in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with science as a cornerstone for the innovation and development necessary for Cambodia’s progress into the 21st century.

But Cambodian students have a very poor background in basic science. In planning to rectify this deficit, the original plan was that all Bachelor’s students at the University of Cambodia would do two science courses as part of UC’s General Education programme (UC follows the US higher education system). The first was an introductory course (GSC101), which traces the evolution of the universe, from the ‘Big Bang’ through the creation of elements and then stars and planets, followed by an overview of the basics of Earth’s physical and biological diversity. The second (GSC102) was a 40- hour laboratory-based course which would complement and reinforce the material covered in GSC101, including through the introduction of demonstrations of various physical and other concepts. However, whilst the courses were prepared in broad outline, they were never implemented: a major constraint was the lack of monies to furnish and finance a laboratory and teaching museum to permit the satisfactory running of the GSC102 component.

The University is thus seeking funding for a basic science laboratory with simple, relatively inexpensive equipment (e.g. microscopes, pH meters, … :materiel already common-or-garden for high-school students from developed countries) in order to be able to launch GSC101 and GSC102 as components of an updated further revision of UC’s General Education programme).

In addition, we are also seeking funding for a teaching museum, as a repository of biological and other materials, not only for GSC102 but also for other undergraduate and graduate courses (in particular, the proposed new Master’s programme on Environmental Studies). Students would be actively involved in collecting and preparing materials for display, together with writing up their results: thus they would be given the chance to further develop their understanding of the course-work, as well as having the opportunity to further develop their soft skills. Our long-term goal is to have a science and research facility to excite curiosity, develop skills of critical analysis, and allow for a blend of collaboration among scientific disciplines domestically and abroad. At the same time, it will help integrate theoretical teachings with practical research project methodology to increase engagement with students, teachers, and practitioners of the applied sciences.

The University’s Phnom Penh campus is located on three and a half hectare of prime city real estate. A science and research facility would make a perfect addition to the University’s initiative to help build society. The facility would be able to enhance teaching with research activities that supports interaction among students, faculty, and researchers and help build tomorrow’s leaders.

By providing a science and research facility for students, faculty, and researchers a positive educational experience will help young people interested in pursuing engineering, mathematics, sciences and technology disciplines in college. An academic science and research facility can bring together educators from around the world to explore innovative methods of engaging students in the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The facility will represent an important step in establishing a more robust science culture among Cambodian students.