Despite the disturbing intermittent power interruptions, happy children continued to toy around with their colourful Rubik’s Cube in the waiting lounge at KentRidge International School in Toul Kork.
Neither the partial darkness nor the sweltering Cambodian summer deterred their enthusiasm to solve the tricky puzzle – a skill which is said to help in problem solving.
It is just not their past time activity during break-time.
Inside KentRidge classrooms, well-trained teachers meticulously train young kids from pre-school to secondary level, about altruistic culture, how to keep the environment clean and even interact with hospitals to learn about healthcare.
“We encourage our students to play games like chess and other games so they will be more imaginative and every Friday, we have special reading session for about 15 minutes.
“Our philosophy is lifelong learning so students can continue to learn and explore, and be confident in society,” said Ngor Pengty, director of KentRidge International School.
Some 150 students are exposed to variety of non-exam skills at KentRidge’s campus – from programming, coding, designing mobile application, handling community services and improving their reading abilities.
The education structure in the Singapore-headquartered school is designed to nurture young students in multiple non-cognitive skills, besides their academic learning, primarily to prepare them for the new work environment.
A highly foreign direct investment dependent Cambodian labour market’s landscape could change drastically in the coming years as employers will demand a well-balanced workforce.
Multi-talented graduates with hard and soft skills will be needed to drive the growing economy and the pressure will be on educationists and institutions to produce suitable candidates who are able to perform in challenging environments.
The mushrooming of international hotels, flourishing tourism sector, the expansion of the financial and banking sector, and upcoming shopping malls – all will need workers with a variety of skills and with the right temperament.
Skills in oral communication, foreign languages, handling customers, problem solving and team work will be in much demand across the different industries. Soft skills will be needed to complement the hard skills.
Even as early as 2015, a joint study by the Asian Development Bank and the International Labour Organization titled “Cambodia Addressing The Skills Gap” has warned about growing mismatch in the workforce related to the micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector.
“There was a perceived mismatch between what MSME employees had learned in formal education and the skills their jobs required, especially technical and soft skills such as communication and attitudes,” said the report.
According to the report, surveys revealed, 73 percent of employers find that university graduates do not have the right skills for the jobs available and over 20 per cent of all firms in Cambodia identified the lack of skilled and trained workers as a major business constraint.
Cambodian graduates need to be ready for the new workplace and learning institutions cannot simply rely on the old teaching system to produce workers for the 21st century industries, said Ngor.
“Some of the items we learned may be obsolete because there are lot of innovations and people are talking about Industry 4.0 Revolution."
“The focus now is on machinery and robotics, and we must teach our students what the machine cannot do. Firstly, the machine cannot do soft skills, which we need to impart to our children.
“Soft skills are very important, you need the soft skills to make your hard skills application very productive and we teach different skills at a very young age to make them good future leaders,” added Ngor.