Senior Lecturer/Graduate Program Coordinator, Department of English, Royal University of Phnom Penh
Course: PhD in Linguistics (Multiliteracies)
University: Macquarie University
Having spent four years studying in Sydney, Australia for a PhD degree in Linguistics (multiliteracies) has been the most amazing experience in my life. Not only did I get to work on a research project I am most intrigued by and is directly related to my work, but I also got introduced to a life-changing network of highly competent and passionate individuals, volunteering and working in a vibrant society such as Sydney and beyond. As important as academic experience, extra-curricular activities I did during my study in Australia played a major part in shaping my career path and transformed me into a true global citizen. Through a school and community engagement initiatives program called Learning, Education Aspiration, Participation, funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), I was given an opportunity to mentor a group of high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them develop their student agency and obtain access to higher education. My Australia Awards Scholarships studies also enabled me to network with graduate students, scholars, and leaders from a wide range of disciplines in universities and industries through the Global Leadership Program, for which I trained in leadership skills and developed knowledge in global issues that matter. I was sponsored to attend international conferences in Australia and abroad, where I had opportunities to showcase my research and at the same time learn from like-minded scholars in international arenas. My interdisciplinary research looked into visual and multimodal practices among university educators and students. Continuing my previous line of research into alternative approaches to teaching and learning, I developed a pedagogical framework for teaching visual and other 21st century literacies to teenagers – a pioneering work not done in Cambodia previously. The Australia Awards allowed me to fulfil my dream as a scientific researcher. In the final year of my studies, I became a proud father when my wife gave birth to our baby son. For all these accomplishments, we are forever grateful, Australia Awards.
Having witnessed the post-war political and social swings which saw a wipeout of some key educators in the country, I grew up aspiring to become an educator. When I turned 20, that dream came true. In September 2020, I will be celebrating my 20th anniversary in my teaching profession. During this illustrious career, I went on to become a teacher trainer, consultant, researcher, curriculum developer, visual literacy specialist, and program coordinator for a postgraduate program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages in a leading university in Cambodia. This is my other main job. From strategic planning, to curriculum review and reform, and to individual student consultation, I run the program as a community where local and international education professionals work hard at finding answers to three fundamental questions in life – how people learn a language, how to help them learn it more effectively, and what research is required to generate empirical evidence supporting answers to the questions. Other than teaching, I am most enthusiastic about this job as it helps promote the research culture and a community of practice in Cambodia where Education for Sustainable Development is not yet a priority but a much needed pathway leading the country to the upper-middle income economy in 2030 as planned.
The PhD degree I obtained has significantly boosted my profile at my workplace and related professional settings. I have been invited to be a trainer, a speaker, and a moderator in important educational and professional programs across Cambodia. I have been contacted to research on projects by the European Union, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Nanyang Technological University, International Development Research Centre, etc. I have been awarded research grants and selected as a curriculum committee member for my workplace. I think some of the positive change I have witnessed through my work in teaching, researching, and program coordination, since my return to Cambodia, is the emphasis of multiliteracies in the curriculums at my workplace, the introduction of blended learning using free yet powerful educational technologies to increase equity and access in education, promotion of the concept of “teacher as a learner, teacher as a researcher”, and the practice of transformative, progressive education through dynamic approaches such as Project-Based Learning. Change and improvement resulting from such work may not be be obvious and immediate, but they are “slow burners” which will help contribute to the education system in Cambodia in the long run. Through my teaching, teacher training, and programs I coordinate, the “ripple” effect, I expect, will be far-reaching, helping Cambodian practitioners and policy makers turn education into a social leveler which sustainably improves the country’s political landscape, economy, and development.
Teaching is a profession of nobility, not fame; saving souls, not money. The inspiration to pursue such a career is better coming from the heart, rather than the head. One must believe in “paying it forward”. In a profession where burnout can be swift and omnipresent, first and foremost, being selfless is the “it” factor that keeps one going strong professionally and spiritually. Having said that, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care as a prerequisite for helping others. Teachers are not candles; we do not need to burn ourselves to light the ways for others. Even more than other social institutions, education needs vigilant and resilient individuals who have a strong vision for togetherness in making positive change for the betterment of society. For teachers and teachers to be, hang on tight. You are in a career route that matters more than just to you and your family.