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Personal Reflection of Internship Program in Education Unit

16 Dec-2016 to 16-Mar-2017

Name: So Hengvotey

Started date: 27 th March 2017

Position: Research Intern, Education Unit, CDRI



Being a university student, I had to follow the lessons and completed courses and acquired credits as required by the university. Flashing back to the university life, I had less time to practice what I have learnt and it was really difficult to apply the theories into real practices that align with social issues. It is very important to search for an internship program while studying at the university or after (freshly) graduated. In this sense, I decided to search for internship opportunity at a research institute. Unexpectedly I had found the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) which was looking for interns to work in research field. This was a great opportunity for me, and I have been selected to intern in the education unit at CDRI. There are three main objectives to intern at CDRI. First, I expected I will gain practical skills and knowledge apart from what I have learnt from school. Improving critical thinking skill is another reason I decided to take up this opportunity; and this can be done by involving in reading club, group discussion, and field work. Third, I will learn about administrative-related work, which is necessary for my future career, namely fieldwork preparation, letter writing and events organizing. Forth, there is a mentorship program which senior researchers help guide the juniors toward their professional goal.

II. Objective and learning process

I have engaged in two main projects at the education unit, CDRI TVET and STEM Education. Through these research studies, I have gained numerous practical skills and knowledge. For instance, in STEM education project I have involved in data collection of first year and senior students in universities located in Phnom Penh and several provinces. Data collection was one lesson of research method that I have studied. It allowed me to figure out the real practice of data collection using research tools such as questionnaire and other materials. Through field work, I have noticed that student responding to each question in different perspective. One interesting point was that Cambodian students don’t set specific goal or consider their own talent to choose their major in higher education study. Another reason why students can’t choose a suitable major according to their talent is because of the poor information dissemination by high schools and universities. Reflecting to the STEM survey, students haven’t had any

survey experience neither at university nor high school. Therefore, they have some constraints completing open questions in the questionnaire.

Another is TVET project. TVET which stands for Technical Vocational Education and Training is a hot topic currently being prioritized by the Cambodian government, especially the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and Ministry of Labor Vocational and Training and I was so excited to see that the government is committed to strengthen human resource capacity in TVET fields. In this project, I had opportunity to be involved in data collection as well, but it was different from STEM project because the survey was with university students, while we administrated questionnaire with technical students for the TVET research project. Further, this study employed a mix method approach having in- depth interview with the private sector as the qualitative research instrument and survey with TVET graduates as the quantitative one. Interestingly, I have learnt a lot about the in-depth interview since I have never experienced doing it before. Besides engaged in the industries interviews, I also supported the team with qualitative data analysis using NVIVO software to code themes and compile all interview quotes for report writing. Furthermore, I have obtained many information during the interviews. For example, respondents talked about the growth in construction sector that leads to skill needed in mechanical, technical and engineering sector. Meanwhile, the increasing demand for technicians has caused the country a skill gap since there are not many labor force in this field. And the study found that it was because of quality issues of TVET institutes (poor curriculum quality, internship program, and public private collaboration) that create such problem. To improve students’ capacity and its quality, the TVET institutes should know understand the value of the collaboration with the private sector and know who the potential partners are in order to find the solutions to such problems. By collaborating with the private sector, the TVET institutes can seek for internship opportunity at the private companies for students and get update information about the current economic trend like the boost in construction sector and recommendations to improve their curriculum.

Besides that, I am getting more critical trying to understand the education development, policy issues, and challenges in the society. More than this, our team have a bi-weekly reading club in which we read and discuss issues or new ideas in various topics. The group discussion in reading club enables me to express my ideas based on experience and knowledge. It not only provide me chances to express my opinions, but I also learn from senior researchers. Thirdly, working as an intern at CDRI, I could learn about admin works and gain my soft skill that school didn’t provide. I have been involved in

workshop preparation to launch the TVET program. By sending invitation letter, preparing some equipment and materials, and communicate with the invitees, I have gained a lot of soft skills. It was not just a simple work that people can do; sometime we need to pay attention to detail to avoid mistakes. However, I have joined many activities during this three-month period, but one program that I like the most during my internship was mentorship program. This program could guide me to identify my goal. Mentor provided good advices and assign research tasks such as literature review to me. After I did the work, my mentor introduce me to some useful techniques to same time. After time spent as a research intern, I realized that it was very useful that university students should experience in order to gain practice skill and learn what university does not offer.

III. Challenges

Doing research is a full time job and it’s beyond the 8 hours working. I need to read a lot of documents to for the literature review, improve my general knowledge and build my language proficiency. Another challenge for me as a research interns is time management because every research projects were based on timeframe.

IV. Conclusion

All in all, internship program in CDRI was a very good program for people who just start their career. Moreover, doing research is my favorite job and I dream to be a research who can provide concrete evidence to policy maker, so I need to strengthen my research skill by getting involve in research projects. I am more confident now that I can pursue my post graduate study.