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close this bookPolicy Development and Implementation of Technical and Vocational Education for Economic Development in Asia and the Pacific - Conference Proceedings - UNESCO - UNEVOC Regional Conference (RMIT, 1997, 520 p.)
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View the documentThe Role of Technical and Vocational Education on the National Economic Development of Cambodia and that of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Growth Zone
View the documentFrom Central Command to Doi Moi: Transforming and Renovating the Vietnamese Technical and Vocational Education System
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View the documentPolicy Development and Implementation of Technical and Vocational Education for Economic Development in Asia and the Pacific: Opening Address
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The Role of Technical and Vocational Education on the National Economic Development of Cambodia and that of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Growth Zone

Stephen J. Duggan
Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia


Although physical infrastructure has been neglected for over 30 years and has deteriorated significantly, the physical infrastructure pales in comparison to what happened on the human side... The purposeful killing by the Khmer Rouge of the risk takers, the educated and the skilled is probably the single most important factor constraining the private sector today. [USAID, 1994: 7]

Developing Asia continues to be the most dynamic region in the world economy, growing at more than twice the rate of other developing regions. Throughout the 1990s, much of this rapid development has been contingent upon the emergence of economic growth zones or triangles. Based on economic cooperation between governments and business, these growth triangles have seen nations achieve rapid economic growth based on mutuality of benefit; economic cooperation has emphasised partnership rather than uneven competition resulting in disadvantage. Of the six major economic cooperation zones throughout South East and East Asia, one in particular stands out. Although three of the world's poorest nations are found in this growth triangle, it is amongst the most robust. Earlier known as the Baht Economic Zone the now Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Growth Zone is witnessing a rapid expansion of economic activity and high rates of economic growth. Consisting of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and the province of Yunnan [PR China], the Greater Mekong Subregion forms a unique geographical sub-set of developing Asia. Former socialist economies of the 1980s, have quickly merged with the free market economies of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Since 1994, the economies of each nation, excluding Myanmar, has generated an annual growth in GDP ranging between 7.5% and 10%1.

1 Growth triangles exploit complementarities between geographically contiguous areas of different countries to gain a competitive edge in export promotion. Growth triangles are also known as subregional economic zones or extended metropolitan areas. 'They are transitional economic zones spread over well-defined geographically proximate areas covering three or more countries where differences in factor endowments are exploited to promote external trade and investment.' [Tang and Thant, 1994: 1]

Since 1991, when western nations pursued a robust program of normalising relations with Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, there has been strong economic activity in a number of key sectors. Foreign direct investment has concentrated on the manufacturing and commercial sectors whilst international aid by means of bilateral and multilateral investments has concentrated on the agriculture, education, health and power sectors. Significant international assistance has been provided to an overall institutional strengthening and capacity building of governments and their bureaucracies. These investments have rapidly turned the economies of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam from negative rates of growth in the late 1980s, to their current levels of 7.8%, 7.7% and 9.9% respectively [ADB, 1996a: 74]. The economic transformation occurring throughout the subregion has changed the basic structure of the labour market. Moreover, the transition to more market oriented economic systems from centrally planned economies has led to widening gaps between the existing educational systems and emerging labour market needs. Transition economies are therefore putting greater pressure on the education sector to be responsive to a more diverse and professional skill base2. In countries such as Cambodia, that skill base does not yet exist.

2 The economies of Cambodia, Lao PDR and to a lesser extent Viet Nam, have been based on a 75% -85% rural based workforce.

Of the four key sectors in receipt of bilateral and multilateral investment, education has been prominent with developed nations providing generous grants for a wide spectrum of education projects. Indeed, bilateral investors have regarded education as a critical investment in the future. However, the investment patterns have not been even and demonstrate significant variation in target groups and coverage. Examining one or more of these sectors in depth, is a window for viewing the larger dynamism of the economic cooperation throughout the subregion. For the purposes of this paper, the education sector of Cambodia has been selected.

Education and Training in Cambodia

The Context The education sector of Cambodia provides a dramatic contrast to that of the other subregion partners. Whereas education has rapidly expanded and strengthened throughout the subregion, the recent history of the education sector in Cambodia is marked by a long period of dislocation [1972-1992]. Under the Khmer Rouge, the education sector was almost totally dismantled and much of the nation's skill base, including its risk takers, were either killed or fled the country during the 1975-1979 period. The 1979-1986 period was characterised by urgent efforts on the part of the Vietnamese backed government to restore the school system. Schools were built or rebuilt across the nation and enrolments increased to pre-war levels. But strong activity in the school education subsector was not balanced by strong growth in the post-secondary school subsector. Technical and higher education were not considered as a priority for a government who committed 40% of its annual budget to defence. In fact, from 1980 until 1991, the major function of the University of Phnom Penh was teacher training. The national skill base remained low. Post-secondary education was weak and fragmented whilst skilled labour was imported from the former Soviet Union and Viet Nam. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of technical expertise from Viet Nam in 1988/89, Cambodia was left with a very weak base for human resource development [HRD].

When international relations with Cambodia entered a period of normalisation in 1991 shortfalls in education and training were quickly recognised by international advisers as a major obstruction to economic development. Not only was the school system ill-equipped to produce a literate and numerate workforce, technical and vocational training for school leavers was virtually non-existent and unrelated to labour market requirements. Moreover, training units and facilities within each government Ministry were idle and bereft of qualified trainers. For instance, in 1991, of the nations 65,000 teachers some, 45,000 were untrained or poorly trained, and unqualified. Secondary teacher training colleges were empty and staff and facilities for training technical teachers had never been considered. As students took between seven to ten years to complete five years of primary schooling, very few students entered upper secondary schools. To repeat, not only was the human resource base very weak, the capacity for strengthening the base was severely limited.

Bilateral Assistance Unlike Viet Nam, where the United States provided significant obstructions for the normalisation of trade and bilateral relations, humanitarian assistance to Cambodia was rapidly restored under the provisions of emergency assistance. Australia, France, Great Britain, Japan, Norway and the United States installed Embassy's and bilateral programs with some sense of urgency. With the presence of a powerful United Nation's peace keeping force3, and democratic elections scheduled for May 1993, large scale bilateral assistance programs were put in place in Phnom Penh and the other major provincial provinces: Battambang, Takeo, Kandal, Kompong Chain and Siem Reap.

3 The United Nations Transitional Army in Cambodia [UNTAC] commenced operations in November 1992 and remained until December 1993.

The education sector proved to be a popular sector for bilateral assistance. Australia and France mounted large scale programs during 1991/92 as a result of the normalisation of government to government relations as a result of the 1991 peace accord [see Box 1]. Teacher training, school construction and the strengthening of training colleges received considerable financial and program assistance. The assistance, although timely, was not coordinated. And by late 1993, signs of competition leading to project duplication and in some cases, inefficiencies were beginning to show. Indeed, rivalry between Australian and French funded programs did not enable informed discussion and planning for education programs even at the Ministerial level. For instance, the bilateral investment in higher education amounted to US$1,250 per student. However, if the money invested in foreign language programs [French and English] was removed, the investment amounted to approximately US$6 per student. Bilateral programs in Basic Education [Years 1-8] amounting to US$10 million per annum was unevenly balanced by the absence of bilateral support for upper secondary education and very weak preschool education.

Box 1: Australian Bilateral Assistance in 1990

The Indo-China regional program provides funding for cooperative activities through international development agencies with Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos... Activities are aimed at meeting priority needs in health, agriculture and education sectors. The regional program is in accordance with current Australian Government policy which precludes the provision of government-to-government assistance to Vietnam and Cambodia.

Australia's Overseas Aid Program 1990-91, 1990, p. 27

The major support for technical and vocational education was provided by one key provider. The Australian non-governmental organisation APHEDA4. But its input was limited and confined to the provinces. By 1996, when the international investment in education was considerable, the picture emerging was one of little coordination. Major gaps in funding the sector were obvious with shortfalls in the upper secondary and post-secondary education being the most obvious. Again, the potential for strengthening the human resource base was limited. Human resource development, a necessary condition for national and economic development requires informed and coordinated planning. This clearly was not occurring and a weakened TVET system was a result.

4 Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad. This NGO is funded in part by the Australian trade union movement.

Multilateral Assistance The Asian Development Bank [ADB], the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund [IMF] conducted a joint intersectoral study of Cambodia in April 1992. This intersectoral review mission saw the IMF providing the necessary funds for Cambodia to clear its foreign debt and other arrears. This enabled the ADB and World Bank to begin funding programming activity including the release of large amounts of funding for major projects in physical and institutional infrastructure [ADB/IMF, 1992: 3-15]. By means of an unofficial agreement, the World Bank became the lead multilateral financier for Viet Nam whilst the ADB assumed the leading role in Cambodia. The ADB entered the education sector through financing an education sector review; a large research project resulting in thirteen technical reports covering all sub-sectors. This technical review also generated an investment framework to guide future investment [bilateral, multilateral and government] in the sector.

The framework has since become an official government policy enabling the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport [MoEYS] to approve bilateral projects on the basis of the priorities set by the Ministry. By this is meant that a bilateral program could not be determined by the nation financing the project. The program had to fit within the priority framework prepared for the government and funding could not be directed to those sectors already heavily funded. In terms of traditional approaches to bilateral programs, this arrangement is unusual.

As the major provider of international financial assistance to Cambodia, US$240 million over the 1994-96 period, the ADB naturally took the leading role in the education sector. In fact, for some nations, the United States and France for instance, its role in coordinating investment across the sector, was unwelcome and interventionist. The ADB, as a matter of policy, is committed to the Basic Education market. Teacher training, teacher colleges and institutional strengthening [of the MoEYS] and capacity building have often been ear-marked for assistance. TVET has also been a key area for the ADB to provide assistance.

Structural alterations to the labour market of developing nations has frequently resulted in the ADB funding projects that are responsive to emergent needs of economies endeavouring to expand and strengthen their HRD base. Thailand has long been in receipt of large ADB's loans aimed at strengthening that nation's capacity to keep ahead of labour market demands. In the case of Cambodia, the ADB has determined to invest heavily in TVET before the school education system has had time to adjust to the recent heavy investments and programming activity. This emphasis on TVET is based on a broader investment strategy by the ADB throughout the subregion. It is a strategy based on the conviction that an investment in HRD generates economic development. In a 1994 subregion forum, the ADB argued:

A key aspect of HRD relates to economic development. From this perspective, the work force of the subregion comprises approximately half of its total population. This is a fundamental resource, whose development will impact all other aspects of economic development. In many parts of the subregion the great potential of this work force is now underutilised because of high unemployment or serious underemployment. However, the growth prospects for the subregion as a whole appear strong, as economic reforms increasingly generate benefits and opportunities. [1994:274]

Box 2 illustrates the emphasis the ADB has placed on a broad based HRD strategy for the subregion. Note that of US$302,000,000 committed to education and training for 1995/96, nearly US$250,000,000 is dedicated to post-secondary education and training.

Box 2: Investment in Education Financed by the Asian Development Bank [January 1995 to September 1996]


Project Title

[US$ Million]


Basic Skills Rehabilitation [TVET]



Basic Education Textbook



Basic Education Management and Coordination



Training and Employment Promotion for Women



Capacity Building for TVET



Postsecondary Education Rationalisation



Education Sector Management Training



Womens' Education



Employment Promotion and Training



National Program for Education of Women



Technical and Vocational Education



Skills Development



Nonformal Secondary Education



Strengthening Skills Development



Strengthening Postgraduate Education and Research



Higher Education


Viet Nam

Secondary Education Development


Viet Nam

Institutional Strengthening of Secondary Education


Regional Cooperation

Cooperation in Employment and Training in the Greater Mekong Subregion


Financing Sustainable Technologies for the Greater Mekong Subregion


Sustainable Management of Forest Resources in Greater Mekong Subregion


East-West Transport Corridor [Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Thailand]


Cross-Border Movement of Goods and People


Subregional Environmental Training in the Greater Mekong Subregion


Total Expenditure


Technical and Vocational Education in Cambodia

TVET in Cambodia cuts across three layers of the education sector. For historical reasons, upper secondary education provided some specialised training. Higher education and ongoing professional training have traditionally provided additional access to TVET. As the school education system is based on a 1-5, 6-11 model, strictly speaking all post-year 11 education and training fell within the TVET category, although to call post-secondary education as TVET would be misleading.5 The long period of severe disruption in the 1970s and 1980s prevents accurate descriptions of provisions for TVET so it is not possible to detail TVET programs, activities and institutions [Blom and Nooijer, 1992: iii-iv, 47-50]. For instance, until recently, it was possible for a Grade 10 graduate to enter the then University of Phnom Penh, undertake two years of study at post-secondary level and then transfer for another two years of training at a university in the former Soviet Union. This training was supply and not demand driven whilst the details of the training remain unknown6.

5 The standard 1-6, 7-12 school education model was introduced in 1996 and will be gradually phased in over the next ten years. It is too early to predict if the new model will eliminate the high level of drop-out that occurs at the end of Grade 8.

6 For instance, with the growing requirement for English language capacity, large numbers of public servants, fluent in Russian, were made redundant over 1992-93. University training for these people was primarily learning Russian as a foreign language.

Box 3: TVET Programs in Cambodia in 1992

There are very few documents in either English or French which provide some insight into the overall post-secondary education system in Cambodia... The higher education and vocational training delivery structure in Cambodia follows the country's general administrative pattern. This allows for a considerable autonomy to the provincial authorities [in the case of education: the provincial education committees] and the sectoral ministries. At the same time, however, this decentralization creates problems for national planning and the enforcement of educational policies.

Focus on Higher Education and Vocational Training in Cambodia. Report of the Nuffic fact finding mission, 1992, p. 47.

In 1994, Cambodia had 19 TVET institutions staffed by 400-500 teachers [trainers]. Student intake was estimated to be around 3,000 per annum. But again, program details are evasive and the supply-demand equation appears to be heavily in favour of supply with the training provided unrelated to labour market requirements. Courses offered by the TVET institutions are of two types: [i] one-year skills training for lower-secondary school leavers and [ii] two or three year technician training for upper secondary school leavers. The two most notable providers of TVET training are the Preah Kossomak Technical and Vocational Training Center and the Russey Keo Vocational Training Center in Phnom Penh. But there are non other training institutions like these outside of Phnom Penh. Indeed, a large and modern agricultural college built in Kompong Cham in 1991, has never been staffed or taken in students.

It is fair to say, that TVET colleges and training is caught in a time-warp. There has not as yet been a labour market analysis, nor any meaningful attempts to link TVET to emerging market needs. In cities such as Phnom Penh, power supply is being steadily upgraded, a rapid building program to meet increasing pressure for accommodation from tourists and large numbers of international business people and consultants and an ever rapidly expanding vehicle market has not witnessed a proliferation in training programs to supply the skilled labour to help support and sustain these developments. What training is provided remains based on labour market requirements of the earlier socialist period when Soviet technical expertise kept the nation's technological base running [Blom and Nooijer, 1992: 54-56].

Box 4: Cambodia's TVET System in 1996

The existing formal TVET system absorbs around 3,000 trainees annually. It needs rehabilitation and quality improvement Up until the end of the century, an increasing number of students will graduate from secondary school and become eligible to enter fee formal TVET system. This is due to the large increase in the birth rate a few years ago. In addition, reform of the basic education system will result in gradually increasing numbers of graduates. However, the demand in the labour market for graduates of the formal TVET system is limited.

Strategy Planning for the Development of a National System of Formal and Non-Formal Technical and Vocational Education and Training, UNDP/ILO, 1996.

Efficiency and Quality of TVET Unlike its neighbours of Viet Nam and Lao PDR, the education sector of Cambodia, remains in a state of transition. Investments over the early 1990s, have enabled a rapid expansion of the system, but consolidation and uniformity remains elusive. Taken for granted instruments such as national examination board, national training board, tertiary admission board, nationally recognised academic credentials, national training standards [I could go on], are non-existent. So, estimations concerning the efficiency and quality of TVET beg the question. But even in the absence of data, some fairly robust observations can be made.

TVET suffers from low efficiency and poor quality. Enrolments in TVET programs in relation to staff size and the physical capacity of the training centres are low. Uncertainty about employment opportunities, very poor staff salaries and sub-standard training facilities contribute to inefficiencies and low quality programs. ILO and ADB technical reviews found that essential training equipment is obsolete. Laboratory equipment and consumables are not readily available. Support via textbooks and training manuals is largely absent resulting in low quality of graduates. A key ADB assessment revealed:

the links between training institutions and employment are basically nonexistent. There is also no established mechanism for the training system to identify employment opportunities and skills needs, and no capability within the system to respond to skills needs as they emerge. [ADB, 1995: 3]

Opportunities to strengthen the TVET system have been available but not capably developed. For instance, the Cambodia Institute of Technology [Institut de Technologies du Cambodge] has received significant assistance from France making it one of the most developed training institutions in Cambodia. However, the instructional program is delivered in French which would not have been a problem had not the students rebelled in 1995 demanding instruction in English. A problem exacerbated by the recent [June 1996] Year 9 entrance examinations which saw a 3% pass rate in the French language examination. In short, advanced and quality instruction has been provided out of sync with labour market requirements. With the Cambodia Institute of Technology, now finding itself somewhat out of alignment of the demand for English and training in English, it has become increasingly necessary for the Royal Government to intervene in the planning and management of TVET. The need for the enforcement of national educational policies is now tantamount if HRD provisions are to stimulate and drive national economic development.

Royal Government Involvement in TVET Formed as a result of three separate Ministries in November 1993, the MoEYS is the second largest Ministry within the Royal Government and it has control over training units in other line Ministries. It is also responsible, in theory, for the HRD initiatives of the nation. Owing to training gaps, a legacy of the rapid withdrawal of Soviet and Vietnamese technical advisers in 1989, this Ministry and other line Ministries requires considerable institution strengthening for it to be responsive to the social demand for basic and vocational education and emergent skill requirements from a labour market [a clear profile of which, is still emerging].

Since 1992/93, and despite data which suggests the contrary, much of the government driven TVET system has ceased to operate. These programs in operation are financed and staffed by NGOs and organisations such as the ILO. The financial resources and institutional knowledge base of the MoEYS required to operate demand driven skills training has not been available since the cessation of regular training in 1991. Those training centres still operative are not linked to business or commerce and trainers do not have the experience to respond to the labour market and increasing internal pressure to modernise the bureaucracy. Many government training facilities have been found to be sub-standard and/or unused and training staff hold skills largely irrelevant to the labour market and skill requirements of departments. The MoEYS has taken the robust measure of [i] assuming responsibility for monitoring training in all line Ministries and [ii] coordinating domestic and external financing of education and training by means of a Project Management and Monitoring Unit [PMMU]. This is a clear indication of the potential of the MoEYS to standardise approaches to training which until now have been characterised by each individual Ministry or administrative unit adopting their own policies in regards to admission, competency, curricula and training outcomes.

Capacity for Human Resource Development As coordination and planning are weak within departments, so it is the case across departments and line Ministries. The spread of authority coupled with an absence of line management, leaves decision making at the very upper level. Beyond that level, the MoEYS lacks effective mechanisms for the coordination and implementation of national policies in regards to education and training. This situation is exacerbated by poor coordination and liaison between key donors which has only been recently overcome by the PMMU. The opportunity to overcome these constraints is seriously hampered by the absence of a structured retraining program for the skill building of key staff. What is therefore required is a significant increase in the capacity of the MoEYS to run departments and to retrain staff.

If a TVET system is to operate effectively, then the management capability of the MoEYS and line Ministries must be strengthened. Only then can government successfully implement externally financed programs. Management and capacity monitoring must also be strengthened if external finance is to be effectively disbursed. Fundamental issues for the government centre on institutional capacity building. It will therefore be important that the MoEYS develop systems needed to effectively coordinate, manage, implement, monitor and evaluate externally financed proposals and programs. This capacity is currently very weak. Strengthening of the MoEYS will require supporting and strengthening selected line Ministries in the design, organisation and implementation of their specialised training programs. Improvement of the management of training at the institutional, provincial and national levels will need to be treated as a priority.

Training for Employment Capacity building for a training system responsive to emergent labour market requirements and trends is critical for Cambodia's immediate employment future. As noted, significant training shortfalls are apparent across line Ministries despite the availability of training facilities. Improving the capability of professionals and para-professionals in training support services, skills standards and computer-based information systems will go some way toward alleviating gaps and constraints in this area. But the overall rationalisation and efficiency of training must be pursued as a priority if training programs are to be responsive to the market. The strengthening of training programs and staff within line Ministries must occur before a similar strengthening can occur at the provincial and national level.

Cambodia: Economy, Labour Market and Training

Box 5: The Function of Education and Training

Education is development's most basic building block. By supporting improvements in education in developing countries, Australia is helping overcome one of the major obstacles to poverty reduction and economic growth. Investing in education increase individual labour productivity and contributes to better stalled and flexible workforces...

The development challenges [in Cambodia] are daunting with serious constraints in institutional and human resources, and deficiencies in basic infrastructure.

Australia's Overseas Aid Program 1996-97, 1996, pp. vi, 36.

Since normalisation of relations with both multilateral and bilateral financiers, Cambodia has undergone a rapid transition to the market economy. In 1992 alone, with the arrival of the United Nations Transitional Army in Cambodia [UNTAC], cash within the economy increased by 200%. Significant aid programs by UNTAC and emergency assistance from the ADB and World Bank saw a major structural alteration in the economy allowing for the rapid privatisation of the sector. The building and construction industry, hospitality and service industries and real estate businesses contributed significantly to Cambodia's transition to the market economy allowing for a discernible growth in an urban middle class. However, the transition to the market has not been accompanied by an equally rapid growth in the labour market.

Growth Triangles and TVET Cambodia's workforce numbers around 4.5 million. Wage employment accounts for only 10% of the workforce. With increasing domestic pressure to decrease the military and the public service [a decrease of some 20% under Cambodia's restructuring and labour market adjustment program], the potential for a rapidly growing workforce seems limited. Yet, Cambodia enjoys a significant strategic position as it bridges the rapidly growing markets of Thailand, Viet Nam and Yunnan. In terms of a geographical proximate area, Cambodia is strategically and centrally placed on the Greater Mekong Subregion. All land and border communications between Viet Nam and Thailand must traverse Cambodia. The World Bank regards Cambodia as an export hub between Thailand and Viet Nam [1994: 27]. Moreover, the ADB's regional strategy sees Cambodia at the crossroads for major physical infrastructure initiatives [ports, roads, power and tourism] linking the entire Greater Mekong Subregion [ADB, 1994: 105-10].

Current projects linking Vung Tau [Viet Nam] to Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and the port of Sihanoukville represents the first phase of a larger physical infrastructure program linking Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to Bangkok. So, despite a relatively small labour market at the moment, prospects for rapid growth are good but will require a strengthening of skill across a broad spectrum of sectors [ADB, 1994: 105-16,122-23,133-32].

A feature of the Cambodian labour force is its low level of education and a related low level of productivity. Only 20% of the population has a formal education beyond primary school and illiteracy is around 35% nationally but 50% amongst women and girls. Consequently, businesses find it difficult to recruit skilled workers and as labour regulations have tightened on the employment of Vietnamese and Thai nationals, it has become increasingly difficult to increase the nation's skill base 'over night'. Moreover, the ADB's loan fact finding mission for the Skills Development Project [September 1994] found that the labour market was still in an embryonic form and the physical capacity for training was dramatically underutilised.

Before 1990, Vietnamese and Soviet technical advisers were largely responsible for post-secondary education and training. They also provided the necessary expertise to run the bureaucracy [and all public utilities]. Since their withdrawal, the Royal Government has experienced significant difficulties in running Ministries, departments and administrative units. UNESCO, UNDP and ADB sector reviews [1994] confirmed that all Ministries were over-staffed, in terms of appointments, categories and salaries, yet on a daily basis, some 60% of staff were absent owing to an absence of defined work. The capacity of the government to retrain and redeploy personnel has been largely absent. Owing to the bureaucracy's low capacity to implement policy, the labour market has operated in an unregulated manner and the government has not been able to respond to labour market adjustments. The need for intensive but quality TVET training within the bureaucracy to adequately respond to fluctuations in the labour market has become quite critical.

There are several hurdles still limiting the capacity of Cambodia's labour market. They include women who head the majority of households and who are numerically greater in number than men [56% of the population]. As girls are obliged to manage both families and provide critical rural labour, their access to education and training is several hampered after they reach puberty [see Fiske, 1995: 25-38]. There are also vulnerable groups including minorities and the disabled [predominantly amputees - soldiers, civilians and a considerable number of children]. Amputees are increasing at a rate of around 200 per month. Not only is this a dramatic loss of potential labour but also a drain on the economy. The actual work force consisting of 10% may increase to 15% by 2000, consists primarily of unskilled workers in factories and the service/hospitality sectors.

On top of this factor is an overall requirement to meet the demand for employment, particularly amongst school leavers and university graduates. Several hundred thousand Khmer become eligible for employment annually. This figure is not based on school leavers alone. The return of refugees from border camps, down-sizing of the military and the public service and the common rural drift to urban centres as a result of rural poverty sees some 300,000 new Khmer seeking paid employment annually [ADB, 1996: 206]. There is therefore a strong need to improve the training programs for skilled technical workers and primary health workers by developing planning and management capacity and providing better delivery of training services. Rationalising the training system by establishing demand driven training programs in support of small scale enterprises and self-employment is one way of responding to this situation. Cambodia has a substantial labour pool available for new or expanding enterprises, but this is a labour force that in many cases requires new skills consistent with the demands of economic change.

TVET in Cambodia: potential and constraints

The TVET picture for Cambodia appears to be bleak. The large gap between existing provisions for TVET and structural alterations in the labour market appear to be significantly wide to elude any bridging in the immediate future. But the situation is not as grave as first might seem. As noted at the outset, Cambodia is in receipt of significant international assistance to the education sector. Basic Education will receive around US$100 million over the next four years7. Comparatively speaking, with a school population of just under two million, this will make Cambodia one of the most heavily funded nations in the region. A World Bank assisted National Higher Education Task Force should ensure the redevelopment of higher education towards the end of the decade with Australia already positioning itself to provide major funding for the Royal University of Phnom Penh. But in advance of these developments, strong activity in TVET is already occurring. Joint ADB and ILO/GTZ programming activity is in place to strengthen the capacity of the MoEYS to plan, coordinate and manage TVET at one extreme whilst installing community development TVET projects at the local level.

7 Guaranteed commitments include: USAID: US$35 million; European Union: US$25 million; UNICEF: US$15 million; ADB: US$21 million; Norway: US$4 million.

The reasoning behind these projects is reasonably straightforward. If economic development is driven by strong activity in HRD then it stands to reason that a nation must be well placed to manage and coordinate HRD at the local, national and regional level. The first strategy at TVET reform involves establishing an institutional infrastructure to allow a TVET system to develop. Instruments will include establishing and strengthening an Office of Technical and Vocational Education and Training [OTVET], a National Vocational Training Centre [NVTC], a National Training Board [NTB] and National Training Fund [NTB]. The MoEYS has explained:

To strengthen TVET policy and the planning mechanism, a NTB will be established as the main policy and planning body. NTB will be interministerial and will include private sector representatives. It will have, inter alia, the following responsibilities: [i] provide guidelines for the development of TVET policy in Cambodia, [ii] advise overall resource allocations for TVET, and [iii] oversee coordination between externally funded and nationally supported TVET activities... NTB will establish a policy framework to coordinate externally funded TVET activities with nationally funded programs. NTB will be supported by OTVET of MoEYS, which will act as its Secretariat [MoEYS, 1995: 3].

One of the key distinguishing features of plans for TVET is in the area of forward planning. Whereas investments in Basic Education and higher education have been donor driven, without sufficient attention to national requirements, and up until recently, subject to poor coordination, redevelopment of the TVET system is being based on informed planning based on labour market information system studies, a national training framework and an agenda for action based on labour demand. The initial heavy investments are intended to strengthen the system centrally at first and only expanding once it is clear the OTVET has the capacity to plan, manage and coordinate ongoing TVET activity. If TVET is going to support national economic development, then a strong national capacity for planning and management will be crucial, particularly for assessing the impact of TVET provisions for the labour market.

The embryonic form of TVET necessitates the formation of strong instruments to regulate what should be a rapid expansion of TVET programs through privately funded colleges. Also imminent is the shift in bilateral funded training programs. For four or five years, significant numbers of Khmer government officials, trainers and academics have been sponsored to undertake postgraduate training in France, Australia and the US. It has become clear, that this strategy for capacity building, although benefiting the bilateral sponsor, has not had the desired impact on institutional strengthening objectives of the government. As such training is lengthy, heavily predicated on English language capacity and expensive, a shift towards Cambodia based skill building training via TVET has become increasingly evident. Ironically, it is the Royal Government, not the donors, expressing the need for increased access to technical and further education programs.

The agenda for the remainder of the decade is one that has firmly locked TVET as the key strategy for human resource development. The need for quality TVET is clear. The following is just a brief overview of the major requirements for the short to medium term:

· strengthening of the planning and management capacity of the government
· institutional capacity building
· training for employment.

Whilst the TVET system remains, largely embyronic, and in need of dramatic inputs for the short to medium term, some notable shifts in sectoral development have occurred. The industrial sector's GDP has risen from 11.5% in 1990 to 16% in 1995. Increases in the sector have been heavily reliant on a rapidly expanding construction industry. Similarly, the services has also increased from 38% to 42% over the same period. This expansion has come largely as a result of the importation of skilled workers from the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. But it is clearly not a significant rate of growth averaging around 12% over a six year period. Still, the outlook for the year 2000 sees the economy's reliance on agriculture reducing from 75%-85% to 40% and with industry and services growing to 19% and 39% respectively. These targets are predicated on a commensurate expansion of the skill base and therefore, a quite substantial increase in HRD. More rapid growth therefore, can only come as a result of a furthering strengthening and expansion of the TVET system. The government recognises these limitations. In its forward planning for 1997 the government noted:

Significant progress has been achieved in financing and implementing initial investment plans for education including... revitalizing teacher training, strengthening education institutions and repositioning TVET and higher education systems for a market economy... However, much more needs to be done to upgrade the quality and depth of education. Private sector initiative has risen to meet the vast demand for improvement in language and computer skills with several technical training programmes imparting skills which are in demand, primarily in the urban office sector. New investors, particularly in garment and services sub-sectors are also providing in-house training for their own employees [CDC, 1996: 9].

The ILO has been a key player in supporting private sector initiatives particularly in peri-urban and rural areas. Key vocations requiring strengthening for the future are detailed in Box 6. These have emerged largely as a result of international inputs such as the steady growth in the import of vehicles and an increasing commercial and public sector reliance on information technology and modern office facilities and line management procedures. The capacity of government to provide training in these areas is very low whilst the private sector has a limited resource base to ensure that demand can be met.

Box 6: Major areas of new and growing employment requiring a skilled workforce

· electrical engineering
· automotive engineering
· electricians
· vehicle maintenance
· information technology
· small business management
· banking and finance
· tourism and hospitality
· road construction
· retailing and marketing

· import-export management

Conclusion: the role of TVET in National Economic Development

It is quite unnecessary to delve into theoretical discussions over the relationship of TVET to national economic development. Clearly, throughout the Greater Mekong Subregion, post-secondary education and training is considered as a key strategy for strengthening the subregion's HRD base and capacity. In the case of Cambodia, the first step for increasing the skill base of its population is to strengthen the capacity of the public service. Enforcement of national education and training priorities can only occur if the government itself has the capacity to develop, implement and manage a policy and legal framework to regulate the labour market and to ensure quality provisions in the delivery and credentialling of training programs. For the short term then, TVET will only result in national economic development if the government bureaucracy is operating efficiently. Although it is not a popular choice of words, TVET and economic development in Cambodia effectively means modernising the government bureaucracy and modernising regulations and provisions for training.

As TVET is still in an embryonic form, it is still too early to predict when current provisions for TVET will impact on the economy. The length of time it takes to establish a NTB and NTF will be indicative of how long it will take to reform the whole system. As much post-secondary education is being privatised it is likely that reform will occur more rapidly provided the NTB operates by means of a robust policy and legal framework for approving, monitoring and evaluating award bearing training programs. That the investment in TVET is pitched for the medium term at both the government bureaucracy and community development projects, is an interesting choice of strategies. Certainly, this provides a balance between public and private sector initiatives; it also provides a breathing space to allow some synergy between the nation's current skill base, the demand for employment and the requirements of the labour market.

Still some obvious gaps remain. Large investments in Basic Education will not be followed by a similar investment in upper secondary school education. As the quality of Basic Education remains low, a legacy of the nation's 45,000 untrained/unqualified teachers, prospects for a rapid improvement in the quality of school graduates are not good. Further, proposals for strengthening the TVET and higher education system are not being matched by vigorous attempts to upgrade the quality of teacher training, up until now, the major provider for quality higher education. So, the actual spread of training including provisions for a higher quality of teachers, is limited. This suggest a heavy reliance on TVET as the major stimulus for improving the nation's HRD potential. Indeed, if the post-secondary system continues to privatise in a regulated TVET environment, it is highly likely that the relationship between education and the labour market will centre on the capacity of the TVET system to meet shortfalls in supply in the labour market. Again, this suggest a strong causal relationship between TVET and economic development.

TVET in Cambodia will very much provide a test case for establishing a quantitative relationship between labour market demand, the structure and function of a regulated TVET system and subsequent national economic development. The knowns of that relationship will soon become apparent particularly if GDP continues to grow at an annual rate of just under 8%. Moreover, Cambodia's position within the subregion will not allow it to develop in isolation. Major physical infrastructure projects in roads, water and power supply and tourism will necessitate that Cambodia keeps abreast of joint developments in these areas with partner countries. In short, a rapidly developing Viet Nam and Thailand will necessitate a rapidly developing Cambodia, otherwise major subregional infrastructural development will falter. Again, it will not be necessary to theorise about the relationship, reality will provide us with a very clear picture of what happens to a nation when its TVET system looses touch with labour market alterations and demands.


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