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Eight Years in Cambodia

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Mark Sinclair

on 11 October 2014

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Transcript of Eight Years in Cambodia

Dr Mark C. Sinclair
Daily Life
Moto Helmets: Case Study
30 years of war, especially Khmer Rouge period (1975-9)
In just 4 years, 2 million Cambodians died in a population of 6 million
Khmer Rouge targeted intellectuals, including doctors, vets, teachers and academics, plus religious groups
Hence 60% Cambodians are under 21
Cambodian population now 14 million
Huge spiritual & developmental needs
Signs of Hope
War finally ended in 1998
Economy stable
and growing
(but GDP $1,802,
cf. UK $35,130)
Growing links with other countries
(e.g. membership
of WTO)
Openness to the Gospel
Growth in the church (growing 10% per year; now 260,000)
The Sinclairs
Served two terms in Cambodia, 2001-5 and 2006-10
Mark's Ministry
University teaching

Educational leadership

Shirley's Ministry

Listening Ear

Blue Gate House

Mercy Medical Clinic
Lisa & Martin
Lisa: studying BA French Studies at ULIP in Paris
Martin: studying A2 Maths & Sciences at Colchester Sixth Form College
Khmer Language
The largest alphabet of
any non-pictogram language
33 consonants
(44 with diacritical marks)
65 vowels
subscript consonants
separate rounded alphabet
Compared to a European language,
takes three times longer to learn
Iced Coffee Exercise
Unicode Keyboard Layout
Level 3 Language Exam:
2-hour lecture
6-page technical essay
1-hour oral including dictation
Moto Video
How do we get Cambodians to wear moto helmets?
Temperature in high 30s, helmets too hot
Fatalistic attitude to life
Wearing of helmets is a new idea
High number of deaths from collisions
High cost of helmets ($12+) compared to income
Low police salaries (circa $25 pcm)
Make it illegal for moto driver to not have helmet
Adverts encouraging 'safety helmets'
Police road blocks
Small fines for police income ($0.50)
Easier to buy helmet after a while
Became status (wealth) symbol
But, some drivers 'wear' helmet on handlebars!
Lived in three houses over the eight years
Our last house was a
p'deah l'vaing
in a set of four; our neighbours were all Khmer, and it was in one of the main red light districts
Lisa & Martin attended international schools; in our second term, Hope; Lisa returned to UK aged 16
Both Shirley & I occupied multiple roles, so each week was different as we split our time between our various responsibilities
We were usually part of a Khmer-speaking church, but also the International Christian Fellowship
We often struggled with health problems: e.g. Lisa had both amoebic and bacterial dysentery at different points, and Shirley was evacuated twice with hemorrhagic dengue fever
We always had a house helper to do laundry, cleaning & some of the cooking; they were often a challenge: e.g. one of them stole from us, and another died while we were on holiday
We travelled around mainly by motorbike taxi (
) or
tuk tuk
, although we did try running a car one year, but that was more trouble than it was worth
Seconded to RUPP as part-time Professor of Computer Science 2002-5
First BSc in Computer Science completed in 1996-2000 with help from JICA
In 2002, dept had 2000 undergraduate students, taught by 35 teachers, one with PhD in education, 10 with MSc, the remaining 25 only BSc
I was the only foreigner in the dept, and indeed, the only experienced PhD-qualified teacher of Computer Science in the country
Developed an MSc for the teachers, where the ten with MSc taught their best subject, doing two-thirds of modules, and I taught remaining third
In the week, everyone taught; at the weekend, the best taught the rest over two years part-time
Admitted nearly 50 students, 15 lecturers from RUPP, some five from elsewhere, the rest recent graduates
By 2010, first teachers with overseas PhD returned to the department
Best six did supervised research projects with me (replaced three of the twelve modules); one of these resulted in a paper published in an IEEE International Conference in Singapore
In the end, 18 passed the MSc in 2005, although there were problems in the teaching and assessment ...
Programming Practicals: Case Study
How do we assess individual programming course work in Cambodia?
Need to do assessment of actual programming
Programs submitted after one or two weeks
Many weak students copy from others
As well as cheating, not learning!
Strong students feel compelled to allow copying
Lots of effort to detect copying of programs
Usual practice is give zero mark to both
Average coursework mark for module very low
Clear statement that copying not allowed
Pass-fail on program submission
Minimal effort to detect copying
Give twenty minutes multi-choice test in class
Focuses on learning outcomes from exercise
Strong students do well
Even get marks from studying copied program
Aim is rewarding learning more than cultural change
NPIC is a joint venture between the Ministry of Labour & Vocational Training and the government of South Korea
About twelve South Korean PhD qualified teachers, the remaining teachers Cambodian, plus me!
Seconded from 2006-8 as Professor of Information Technology and Chief Adviser to the Education Quality Office
NPIC was only in its second year of operation, with four-year BSc courses; aim was to develop third and fourth year courses by training up Cambodian teachers
Proved difficult, as all but the head of dept focused on existing teaching, with little incentive to learn
One key outcome was head of dept won a scholarship to study for an MSc in South Korea
Key observation was the importance of language and cultural adaptation eg eating lunch with the Cambodians
Two co-presidents, one Cambodian, one South Korean
From 2007-9, I was Resource Manager of OMF's IPS Service Centre in Phnom Penh
The International Personnel System (IPS) was developed to handle all OMF's personnel, e-Learning and intranet server needs
The system was built on the commercial SAP platform, with initial customisation, project management and most analysis done in Singapore, but with all subsequent development and some analysis in Cambodia
I recruited and helped to train a team of six software developers, who with an expat development lead, were based in an office in Cambodia
The first two undertook six months training in Singapore, with the rest of the training on-site in Cambodia
Most were former students or colleagues of mine from RUPP and NPIC
Since 2010, the Service Centre was spun off as a separate successful missional business with 25 staff, which I was able to visit in 2012
Other Ministry
I was chairman of the board of Hosea Ministries, an NGO working in drug education, rehab, sports ministry and community development for 18 months in 2006-8
I was on the board of Hope international School for three years (including periods as both vice-chair and acting chair)
I was part of our FES-affiliated student work throughout my time in Cambodia, including leading it for 9 months in 2004
I served on OMF's Development Work Council for six years, and was leader of our Education Team from 2006-10
TEEAC Database: Case Study
The Theological Extension Association of Cambodia addresses this through self-learning modules translated into Khmer for pastors and other church leaders
Students study with the workbooks, and then every two weeks, meet in a group with a trainer to review their study
Most pastors in Cambodia are poorly educated and bivocational, and so must work hard to prepare sermons and teach their congregations
In the general population, average educational attainment is about three years, and only rises to six years for those of school age.
In 2007, their course admin was in disarray, and they approached me to help them develop a solution
I recommended developing a Khmer language database using Unicode and Ruby on Rails
What happened next?
I asked the Head of IT at NPIC if he could do it (for money); he thought about it for a while, but decided against
He suggested I teach the three brightest students in the third year to do it (they had studied Java, a similar language), but despite many regular meetings (and payment) they just couldn't translate their academic knowledge into practical programming
So, I worked on it myself for about a year, getting to the point of installing it for user acceptance testing (and some error message translation) on one of the TEEAC office computers
But, there was an 'organisational meltdown', and there was no-one in a position to accept and use the software by the time I left Cambodia in 2010; the chair of the reconstituted TEEAC board has just been in touch in the last three months about resurrecting the project!
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
(Isaiah 58:6-7, NIV)
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