Aspirational Cambodia: Empower the Young People

12 May 2015

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Cambodia has the region’s youngest population, with over 76 percent of its population under 40 years old. This young generation will be the one to realize Cambodia’s dream of becoming a middle-income country by 2030, and attaining a high-income country by 2050.
Youths aged 15 to 34 account for 35 percent of Cambodia’s population. They are the country’s future and its present. They are key drivers in social change, economic development, and political transformation.
However, their potential contributions to society have not yet been tapped. To transform this demographic dividend into a source of national strength and development requires more investment and clear strategic action plans.
Only $433 million, 11.4 percent of the $3.9 billion national budget, is allocated this year to education. Cambodia’s government should allocate at least 15 percent of its national budget to education.
More Youthful Politics
Young Cambodians will play significant roles in changing the Kingdom’s political map. The party that wins the hearts of young people will win elections.
Several youth associations and networks have been founded to promote dialogues on issues Cambodia faces. They also organize social events and conduct community works.
Acknowledging the increasing significant role of youth, Cambodian political parties are getting involved by promoting young people to take leadership positions in their parties. The parties also are redesigning their agendas to reflect the concerns of youth.
Empowering Young People in Delivering Public Services
The ruling Cambodia People’s Party has injected new blood into its government, as well as party machines. The newly appointed young ministers have received public support through their determination to carry out structural reforms and deliver results.
For the ruling CPP to remain in power, it needs to empower more young leaders to bring about positive changes at both national and local levels. There should be a meritocracy when identifying the young leaders – recruitment and promotion of public servants based on their ability and virtues.
Skills Revolution
Education is not just about learning facts and figures, but about developing leadership to transform communities and make positive changes in society.
Lack of skills – and skills mismatches – are common problems of young Cambodians. Hence, the development of skilled human resources is fundamental.
The Ministry of Education is adopting strategies to develop skilled labor. These include: training of skilled and productive labor to meet market demand, developing regulatory frameworks, and improving educational and vocational training institutions.
The strategies also emphasize: encouraging private sector participation in education, strengthening the quality of education, and promoting scientific research and technology innovation.
Cambodia should study and adopt relevant experiences and lessons from Germany’s apprenticeship model. This is a dual education system that combines vocational training at school and apprenticeships, or on-the-job training, in a factory.

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