“All universities must sign [their own degrees] and be responsible for the education quality themselves... If [students] apply for a job and are not accepted, they can no longer blame it on the Education Minister.”
CPP Prime Minister Hun Sen, 10 February, 2014
“We must now evaluate the curriculum and governance inside each university to ensure that they meet the standards to allow them to sign the degrees. If they do not conform, they can be shut down. This is the beginning of the restructure of the education system and will force institutions to ensure that their graduates are prepared for the international labor market.”
Ros Salin, cabinet chief of newly-appointed Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron, 10 February, 2014
“Some companies may not accept graduates without the Education Minister’s signature. They will worry that the students have colluded with the university to get higher credit.”
Um Samphea, a 24-year-old recent Human Resources University graduate, 10 February, 2014
So, according to the CPP prime minister, the main reason for getting all the 104 universities to sign their own certificates from now on is to relieve his education minister of being responsible for unemployable graduates.
Will he and his education minister be off the hook?
Cabinet chief Ros Salin implies that up to now the Ministry has not evaluated curricula and governance of those universities. It seems all they have had in place so far is a practice of the minister signing those certificates – perhaps blindly, if not compensated by any “facilitation” fees.
But education officials cannot be too blind not to see the change effectively will move the facilitation fees away from their personal interest group.
Hence, will the group now give up the fees and do a decent job of imposing some standard for the tertiary education? The likelihood is that creative bureaucrats will find ways to retain the facilitation fees, this time possibly by compromising the integrity of the evaluation and monitoring of the university standard and performance.
On the other side of the dirty equation, will those profit-driven universities that have benefited from their substandard curricula conduct their business any differently even under the threat of being closed down? Remember, the kind of decent standard that would secure employment for their graduates would dig deep into their profitability. It will cost far less to throw “stop-the-closing-down-threat” fees at the education officials. Even 24-year-old Um Samphea knows well how the system works.
Then again, Hun Sen, who claims to have performed miracle at the King Father’s cremation, may have something up his sleeves to pull off this touted reform.
Or, he and his education minister will just get off the hook anyway – because they can, and are allowed to.
Ung Bun Ang