Question Time: The Future of Skills in Cambodia

Lord Puttnam - one of the panellists on the Question Time Debate
Lord Puttnam - one of the panellists on the Question Time Debate

Lord Puttnam – one of the panellists on the Question Time Debate

BritCham and ASEANForum Magazine bring you the second in our series of QuestionTime panel discussions, a broadcasted session with industry figures, experts and Government representatives on the future of skills in Cambodia.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The words of Nelson Mandela not myself, though I share the sentiments. And in a region that is changing as rapidly as ASEAN, education is an essential tool to ensure the benefits of economic growth are shared amongst its 600 million plus population.

Yet educational standards in the poorer nations – Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar – lag far behind those of the wealthier elite.

This is something acknowledged by the member states of ASEAN – an organisation that is committed to a harmonised higher education system across the bloc. But how realistic is this?

While Singapore boasts, in the National University of Singapore, the top ranked university in the whole of Asia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar fail to have one in the top 100. And with government expenditure lagging at 2.8, 3.3 and 0.8 percent of GDP (2010) respectively, compared with 5.8 percent in Thailand and 6.6 percent in Vietnam, this gap is likely to widen rather than narrow. A paltry 16.7 and 15.8 percent of the population progresses onto university in Laos and Cambodia respectively, compared with over 50 percent in Thailand.

Even those few lucky enough to graduate, do so in subjects that are peripheral to the skill requirements of employers.

“Too many students are graduating in liberal arts and too few in science, technology, engineering and maths,” stated a Cambodia Development Resource Institute education report in 2015. Only three percent of Cambodia’s 250,000 post-secondary school graduates (2014) came from technical and vocational fields, such as agriculture, science and engineering.

In our first issue of ASEAN Forum for 2016, Marissa Carruthers looks at the state of education in Cambodia, and asks what needs to be done to provide the skills that businesspeople in the country are crying out for, especially in the much sought after, but undersupplied STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills.

It is also the subject that an expert panel will address at the second BritCham / ASEAN Forum Question Time debate on 18 February, which I will be moderating.

If you want to ask a question then email me at




H.E. Lord Puttnam, the UK’s Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Cambodia

Mr. Simeth Beng, Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank & an education specialist

Mr. Amaury Saint Blanquat, Senior Partner at Saint Blanquat.

4th panelist to be announced.



Mark Jackson, Publisher & Editorial Director for AsiaLife Magazine & ASEANForum Magazine



18.00-18.30: Networking

18.45-20.00: QuestionTime

20.00-21.00: Networking

Questions will be taken from the audience so please submit your questions in advance to




Panelist Biographies

H.E. Lord Puttnam, the UK’s Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Cambodia

Lord Puttnam has spent thirty years as an independent producer of award-winning films including The Mission, The Killing Fields, Local Hero, Chariots of Fire, Midnight Express, Bugsy Malone and Memphis Belle.   His films have won ten Oscars, 25 Baftas and the Palme D’Or at Cannes.

He retired from film production in 1998 to focus on his work in public policy as it relates to education, the environment, and the creative and communications industries.

Lord Puttnam was awarded a CBE in 1982, a knighthood in 1995, and was appointed to the House of Lords in 1997.  In France he was made a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1985, becoming an Officer in 1992, and a Commander in 2006. He has been the recipient of more than 40 honorary degrees from Universities in the UK and overseas.

In 2012 he was appointed the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.


Simeth Beng, Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank

Simeth Beng has more than 30 years of experiences in education and health sector in Cambodia and Laos. He has served as Senior Operations Office of World Bank since 2003. Prior to that, he was Program Director of Save the Children Norway and Nurse Education of Ministry of Health. He has a post-graduate certificate on Education Policy Planning and Analysis from Harvard School of Education.


Amaury de Saint Blanquat, Senior Partner at Saint Blanquat & Associates

Amaury de Saint Blanquat has held senior positions in leading European consulting firms, advising major corporations in support of restructuring programs from supply chain optimisation to change management and bottom-line improvement. He has extensive experience in supporting those who must take complex decisions in Southeast Asia.
$25 for members; $30 for guests (includes free flow drinks & canapes)


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