COVID-19 grant: Strengthening partnership between Swiss and Cambodian institutions on COVID-19 research
Financially supported by the COVID-19 grant "Bilateral Science and Technology Programme with China, Japan, South Korea and the ASEAN region 2017 - 2020" of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), this project aimed to strengthen already/partly established partnerships between Swiss and Cambodian research institutes, first of all in general and concretely through a joint research COVID-19 research project on distance learning.
Financially supported by the COVID-19 grant "Bilateral Science and Technology Programme with China, Japan, South Korea and the ASEAN region 2017 - 2020" of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), this project aimed to strengthen already/partly established partnerships between Swiss and Cambodian research institutes, first of all in general and concretely through a joint research project to investigate the teaching and learning challenges during Corona lockdowns faced by TVET and HEIs in developed and developing countries, to investigate the solutions found in Cambodia and Switzerland as exemplary countries and compare them systematically.
On the basis of the Swiss project Check-up Distance Learning, in which SFUVET’s Evaluation Unit teamed up with the Institute for External Evaluation of Upper-Secondary Schools (IFES IPES) to develop a tool enabling upper-secondary schools to take stock of distance learning during the Covid lockdown period, a similar study was conducted in Cambodia. The research was lightened and framed by Gajarajlshan and Abeywardena (2013), Grove, Gray, and Burns (2015), Ismail, Bakar, and Wafa (2020) and others, whose scaffolded the challenges around, but not limited to, investment, the internet and learning devices, contents delivery, assessments, motivations, and social support. The questionnaire pivoted around these frames of references. A mixed method research design through an online survey and key informant interviews was implemented. The quantitative and qualitative data were applied simultaneously to triangulate and complement one another. To ensure comparison of data, the partners adapted the survey questionnaires being implemented in three different language-regions in Switzerland to fit with Cambodia’s contexts and language (Khmer) to be implemented across TVETs and HEIs.
A mixed method research design through an online survey and key informant interviews was implemented.
The results from this study provided a big picture of the challenges, solutions, and innovative responses to enhance our understanding and provide better insights for the education policy makers and those involved. Without doubt, the Covid pandemic has immense negative impacts on higher education. Covid has forced academic institutions around the world to shift toward the digital platform for T&L, where Cambodia and Switzerland are no exceptions. Lack of support and investment from educational institutions due to unwillingness resulting in not-fully-prepared for e-learning in the ‘new normal’ system. Investment could include training for lecturers and students and hardware and software technological support. However, teachers, students, and management of the institutions both in Cambodia and Switzerland mostly felt positive for the position of how their institution organized for the Covid situation. Students’ participation could be a challenge for lecturers to engage them and the online classrooms were not equipped to ensure students’ participation. Both Cambodian and Swiss students were less motivated to learn with online lessons during the Covid pandemic. The firms, parents and school heads offered similar opinions. Cambodian findings demonstrate that unstable internet connection and difficulty assessing student performance are the biggest obstacles impeding the effective delivery of e-learning. It begins to affect the current T&L processes, creating new variables, constraints, and issues, making it fundamentally different from face-to-face learning environments. The roles of the lecturers/teachers and students changed. Even the educational objectives may differ across students, professors, teachers and institutions. Effective evaluation is possible only when the objectives are clear. There is an inconsistency in evaluation after the transition to e-learning. The students had more difficulties than usual in achieving the learning objective due to lack of internet access and infrastructure in rural areas. These cause students not able to turn on their cameras, affecting the interaction and engagement of learning. In Switzerland, the students had less difficulties in achieving their learning objective compared to Cambodia’s students. Due to the nature of the questionnaire adapted from the Switzerland partner, the study was compared where data was most comparable. The scope of this study did not cover all the TVETs and HEIs in Cambodia, but they were purposely selected based on the study’s objectives.