Interview with Pen Sithol on the topic “Qualification Framework”

By SUN Narin

Cambodia’s higher education has not been improving yet. So far, the country has not had a national qualifications framework which shows qualification of the degree holders and tells the skill and competency a person has after finishing the course. Pen Sithol is the director of the department of Standards and Accreditation for Higher Education.

Mr. Pen Sithol

Question: How is it important to our education system?

Pen Sithol: It’s very important to any education system because it tells the framework so curriculum developer needs to match curriculum at university with the framework and also telling the learners what to do, what they expect to have as the learning outcome when they finish the course.

Question: As far as I know so far Cambodia does not have that kind of qualification framework. So I want to know the difficulties of creating it.

Pen Sithol: Em….Actually we have the study part way telling the learners when they finish one level to another level, but we don’t have certain qualification framework yet. Based on the education law, the ministry has to develop this qualification frame. It is not very difficult but it takes time because it involves with other state holders in order to develop qualification framework. What have to find out what the needs in the market, skills and competency need at the market and then we can develop that qualification framework.

Question: So how it is difficult to study the market needs?

I don’t think it is difficult.  As I said it takes time, and the ministry of education based on their plan, they will start develop qualification frame in 2012 and as far as I know that the ministry of labor and vocational training they got the qualification already but it is not implemented yet.

Question: I wonder what the involved sides of that.

Pen Sithol: The first thing we have to think of the skill needed at the market and we have to you, know, and invite all the stage holders. Those who will use human resource. I mean from the university. They have to produce the human resource based on the need in the market. And that the qualification framework can show what qualification, what the quality of learners that they have to match the market needs.

Question: Is it the process of making it?

Pen Sithol: I don’t think so. But As I know from the ministry of education, they said that there will be in 2012. They just start that. According to Aquan, Asean Quality Assurance Network, they promise that by 2012 all the country members must have qualification network.

Question: So I want to know what is the plan from your department.

Pen Sithol: Actually we have plan for many years, but because we don’t have enough human resource and and also enough fund to do that, but we plan to do that because in our accreditation, we need also qualification framework so that we can do program qualification work.

Question: What is your optimism towards Qualification framework?

Pen Sithol: yes thank you. Hopefully by the end of 2012 the ministry will develop qualification frame work. From that framework, our higher education system will change. Curriculum will change. We will focus on competency and learning outcome. So our human resource will be better after we got qualification framework.


Cambodia’s success in tackling HIV/AIDS threatened

PHNOM PENH  (December 27, 2010) : Cambodia’s widely hailed efforts in tackling HIV/AIDS are under threat with foreign donors likely to cut funding over the next two decades, a study said on December 22. “The success that Cambodia has had with its AIDS programme is at risk because of the possibility that external partners will withdraw financial support too quickly,” said Richard Skolnik of the Results for Development Institute (R4D).

The Cambodian government will have to spend more of its own money in the fight against the virus, study co-ordinator Skolnik added.

New HIV infections have dropped from around 15,500 annually in the early 1990s to about 2,100 in 2009. And around 93 percent of 33,500 AIDS patients who are eligible are receiving anti-retroviral treatment.

External partners fund 90 percent of the country’s AIDS programme, which currently costs just over 50 million dollars a year.

But as a result of the global financial crisis and a shift in donor priorities, those funds are likely to shrink in the coming years and Cambodia “will need to significantly increase its own allocation”, the report states.

The study, “The Long-Run Costs and Financing of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia”, was compiled by a team of government officials with assistance from UNAIDS and US-based R4D, which specialises in health policy analysis.

The authors compared several financing scenarios from now until 2031, four decades after HIV/AIDS was first detected in Cambodia.

Each option has a different price tag and a different rate of success in preventing new infections, and all assume the government and external donors will eventually split the costs evenly.

Luxury market the key for cambodia

Bangkok Post Newspaper

Didier Lamoot is the general manager of the new $50 million, 201-room five-star Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra hotel. He has opened hotels across the world, in markets as diverse as Mauritius and Tunisia. Ahead of Sofitel’s soft launch this past weekend, he talked to Soeun Say of the Phnom Penh Post about Cambodia’s potential.

Q: What do you think about Cambodia’s hotel industry and what is your general perception of the Kingdom?

A: In 2004 to 2005, a lot of people were asking, “Why build a luxury hotel in Phnom Penh?” All upscale hotels were losing money by that time, as occupancy and room rates were really below average.

But by 2007 to 2008, all professionals from our sector were pushing us to open, as they needed more luxury rooms. Times are changing fast and Phnom Penh is following the trend, maybe more than anywhere else in the main Southeast Asian capitals.

What potential did hotel investors see in Phnom Penh?

Confidence in the future – Phnom Penh is on the map to attract more businessmen, investors, and tourists. It is the domestic hub of Cambodia.

As a newcomer in the capital, what is your strategy to gain market share?

Since 2009, we have noticed a change in the way people were using hospitality. The habits and expectations of the different type of clients are not so framed anymore.

A businessman will need all the corporate and exclusive services, especially high and efficient [internet] connectivity, but also all resort facilities in one – colonial style with high technology combined together.

Also, the hotel must have space. Our location by the river, in a beautiful park, makes our hotel very attractive.

What do you think about Cambodia’s hotel services compared to other countries in the region, such as Vietnam, Thailand or Laos?

I’m used to saying that the first wonder of Cambodia is the Khmer culture. The people are very service oriented. In 2007, the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra [in Siem Reap] was awarded 100% for service among a list of the 500 best hotels over the world. Only 10 hotels worldwide were ranked 100%. Cambodia can be proud of this achievement, due to the kindness and professionalism of its people.

Do you see any effort by the government to improve hotel services to meet international standards?

The Ministry of Tourism under the leadership of Dr Thong Khon is very active in helping and structuring our sector of activity. The private sector works very well with the public sector to achieve the classification of the hotels and restaurants, strategy, marketing, communication.

The concept of a clean city, clean hotels and good service raises the quality level to international standards for all.

In the first six months of 2010 just 37 hotels in the Kingdom’s had registered for a star rating following a 2004 sub-decree. What do you think of this, in comparison to the region?

Our industry has started to be structured in the right way under the Minister of Tourism orientation. This takes time. Even if we are a little bit behind, we [will] go very fast. Very soon we will be at the same level, even above that of the other countries in Asean.

Can you compare the hotel market in Cambodia to Thailand and Vietnam?

Khmer culture makes the difference from a service prospective. In addition, our neighbours are more targeting mass tourism and we cannot compete with this strategy. Cambodia is a luxury destination. We must target this segment as a priority.

The people, the history, the archaeology, the seaside and the quality of natural agriculture – like rice from Battambang, pepper from Kampot, the sugar palm, the freshness of the fish from the Tonle Sap – the biodiversity, not having polluting industries, is what people is expecting.

We have all [these things] in one and we must communicate that. The upgrade of the infrastructure will contribute to attracting travellers.

How did the economic crisis affect the sector and what are its future challenges?

We had the economic and a political crisis at Preah Vihear at the same time the average spend per visitor decreased a lot. Also, the market changed in 2008 to 2009.

Many professionals could resist [booking] thanks to their ability to use better distribution channels, mainly through internet. But the appropriate answer was to maintain quality and consistency of products and services.

The most important [challenge] is to develop to coast to become a full destination.

We need our tourists to book one week at the beach and to do an extension to Siem Reap all year long. Air France will fly starting in March to Phnom Penh – this is fantastic news for the future. We need to have domestic flights with proper services, schedules and destinations, especially to Sihanoukville. That is the priority.