Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Opening of Young Southeast Asian Leaders STEM Education Regional Workshop

Himawari Hotel, Phnom Penh
February 28, 2018

Good morning everyone! Your Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, thank you for joining us today. YSEALI members from across ASEAN – Welcome to Cambodia and to the YSEALI Regional Workshop on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education!

Pouk niset Khmae nuleynaw? Chraaln nah! Pouk Khmae chaalat dzieng gey!

Mana kelompok dari Indonesia? Selamat datang ke Kambodia! Saya sudah lama tidak berbicara Bahasa Indonesia.

Don’t worry—I won’t do that for every language in ASEAN. Those are the only two I know.
I’d first like to take a moment to thank The Asia Foundation and STEM Cambodia for their very hard work organizing this workshop.

I would also like to thank the esteemed group of mentors here today who have volunteered their time to guide you through these next few days. They include:

  • Sokhom Kith, a leading Cambodian-American robotics expert who works at the Naval Research Laboratory in the United States;
  • Do-Yong Park, an American Fulbright Scholar, and;
  • Sophie Nop – an American Fulbright student.

Just last night we held a reception for everyone involved in organizing this year’s Cambodia Science and Engineering Festival, which you will be visiting during your workshop. I was amazed by the energy and enthusiasm that young Cambodians have for STEM topics right now.

We had live science experiments, science displays, and best of all, a live performance by ten Cambodian superstar musicians of the new hit song “STEM 4 my Future, STEM 4 Cambodia.”

The reception, and the festival itself, prove that STEM doesn’t have to be boring – it is exciting, and there is so much happening in STEM right now here in Cambodia to celebrate.

About a year ago, the U.S. Embassy decided to host this workshop to take advantage of the growing momentum in Cambodia to promote STEM education as an important strategy for Cambodia’s development.

The Cambodian government, and particularly the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport, has done an amazing job at promoting STEM education – and we wanted to showcase Cambodia’s achievements to YSEALI members from across Southeast Asia.

Promoting STEM education is a top priority for the U.S. Embassy as well. This is the fourth year we have supported the Cambodian Science and Engineering Festival, which was attended by over 20,000 young students last year.

Despite the growing excitement about STEM careers in Cambodia and across ASEAN, it’s fair to say the region still faces challenges. We need more highly trained professionals with the right kind of skills to promote STEM. We also need more participation from women in this field.

I know you will be discussing some of these common challenges over the next few days, and I hope you all are able to brainstorm some common solutions to these challenges.

During this workshop, you will have a chance to see some of the great things happening here in Cambodia on STEM. You will hear from experts on these topics and visit important cultural heritage sites employing STEM.

A highlight of this workshop will be your trip to the Cambodian Science and Engineering Festival, where you will have a chance to pitch your own STEM education project ideas for a chance to win some seed funding. This will be a great opportunity for Cambodians to learn from you guys, especially since the pitching event will be broadcast on Facebook Live!

More than anything, I also hope you get a chance to make some new friends and build your network among STEM experts from across Southeast Asia. That way, when you go home, you will have the inspiration and tools to create something new to promote STEM in your home country.

And now, it is my great honor to turn the floor over to the Minister of Education, Youth, and Sports, His Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron.

I wish you all good luck and hope you have a wonderful next few days in this workshop. Thank you very much.