The Senior Minister of Education for Cambodia met on Wednesday with leaders at Troy University to lay the groundwork for a possible educational partnership.
Dr. Kol Pheng, who also serves as chairman of the board of trustees for Pannasastra University of Cambodia, is the highest- ranking foreign official to visit the Troy campus. Kol said the main purpose of his visit was to find ways to improve the quality of education offered in Cambodia.
“We want to continue to improve our educational system and ensure we are keeping up with international standards,” Kol said.
To that end, Kol said he wants to see the formation of a 1-2-1 study program that will allow Cambodian students to come to Troy - the student would study for one year in Cambodia, two years in Troy, and then a final year at home.
The same program has been implemented successfully with several Chinese universities, said Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr., chancellor of Troy University.
He said 1-2-1 is also soon to be implemented in Malaysia, as well.
“The model has been almost perfected in China, and we feel like we can replicate it almost anywhere there is an interested partner,” Hawkins said.
Kol said the training of teachers is of particular interest to Cambodia as the country looks to expand free public education for first through ninth grades.
There's hope that the partnership will work both ways, and Troy University education students will one day spend time in Camboida.
That goal is one Hawkins said he feels strongly about.
“Think about the view those students would have of the world and how much better they will be as teachers,” Hawkins said.
Pol said U.S. students studying in Cambodia would be able do research on issues unique to developing countries.
“We have a lot of emerging issues relating to economic development and different trends in our society,” Kol said.
Emerging from decades of violence under the Khmer Rouge, Kol said Cambodia is still trying to heal old wounds and move forward as a nation.
“For me, education and teaching about the past has been the way to promote healing and forgiveness and replace hate with love,” Kol said.
Following the meeting in Troy, Kol traveled to the Montgomery campus, where he was scheduled to meet with several other leaders from aross the state.
The meeting with Kol was arranged through the university's relationship with former U.N. Ambassador and Cambodian native Sichan Siv.
Siv spoke at the university's spring commencement in May 2007.