Master of Education, Mary Immaculate College
Pov was awarded a fellowship to study a Masters of Education at Mary Immaculate College during the 2022-23 academic year. He took a study break from his role with See Beyond Borders in his native Cambodia to undertake his studies.
My name is Pov Pheung, and I am from a rural village near the world-heritage, Angkor Wat. I am the first male candidate from Cambodia to secure an Ireland Fellows Programme award. Currently, I am studying a Master of Education (M.Ed) at Mary Immaculate College (MIC), University of Limerick, Ireland. Back in 1998, I became the first person in my entire district to continue education to upper secondary school (USS) while thousands had either dropped out or never attended school in the first place. Farming and putting food on the table was deemed more important than education. Recently, 1 in 5 Cambodians stay long enough to complete school and less than 3% meet the proficiency level by the age of 15 years old. This needs to be changed.
Since 2003, I have been working in education. Before coming to Ireland, I was the Country Manager for the education NGO See Beyond Borders in Cambodia. I was responsible for overseeing, evaluating and reviewing all our educational programmes in the country. Part of my duties include liaising directly with government senior educators from district level to the national Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS). I hope that completing a Master of Education in Ireland will enable me to develop strategic solutions to address the education crisis in Cambodia. I researched the M.Ed closely and indeed the entire course aligns very closely with my experience and the knowledge that I was looking to gain. I believe that the M.Ed will enable me to improve my confidence to engage in-country educators at ministry levels as we move towards SDG Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all).
My personal mission in life is to bring positive change to Cambodia’s education system. Studying in Ireland at such an internationally recognised, trustworthy institution like MIC has developed my own capacity and confidence through intensive course content which is so effectively delivered . Moreover, this academic experience has enhanced even greater collaborative opportunities between my organisation, the Cambodian Ministry of Education and partners in Ireland. I have met the Minister of State at the Foreign Affairs and several other Irish Aid officials. In April and May, I also organised a visit for 5 Cambodian educators to Ireland where we met leaders at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, higher education institutions, teacher education support centres, schools as well as chariatable foundations and individuals across the country. These connections have helped the work we do for improving Cambodian education in many positive ways.
Developing my research and interpersonal relationship skills have stood out as the main highlights from my academic experience in Ireland. Intensive modules on research methodology and practice plus on-going mentoring by my research supervisor throughout the course period has enhanced my research competence significantly. The research experience will transform my executive culture to be more informed decisive. Moreover, having shared classes with Irish teachers, I have learned so much about teachers’ professional and personal life standards in Ireland. Irish educators are generally approachable and fascinated about education. I love listening to stories of how Ireland has transformed their education from extreme deficits in the past to achieving global success. This experience allows me to understand the insights of teachers’ standards in both contrasting economic situations, which in turn,will inform me to design more effective programmes for teacher development for Cambodia.
I find it easy to adjust to life in Ireland. Both Cambodia and Ireland are small countries and have very similar historical experiences such as consequences of colonialism and famine. Irish people are very friendly. Food stores are within a few-minute walk from where I live and offer variety of options. All I need to do is to learn to cook! However, I must admit that I find the weather somehow challenging, particularly in winter. It is cold and it rains too often compared to Cambodia. Nevertheless, I like scenery in spring and the Irish summer is wonderful (I am safe to say now that 15 degrees is just ‘perfect’ in Ireland!). I also find there to be a big difference between Cambodia and Ireland with the pace of life. In Cambodia, life is slower, while in Ireland, everything is way quicker, technology-based and is very resourceful. People of both nations are happy and generally get on well with each other.
During the rest of my fellowship, I hope to understand further insights into education policies and practice in Ireland so that I can relate them to development in the Cambodian context. I will also look to make even stronger connections with Irish educational institutions and charitable foundations and individuals so that we can further the learning and support of each other between people of both nations. I will continue to spend time with people, visit beautiful places and, of course, enjoy Guinness in my favourite pub near my accommodation!
I would strongly recommend more people from Cambodia and Southeast Asia to study in Ireland. In fact, I volunteer as an Education in Ireland Student Ambassador and share my heartfelt experiences in various physical events and online. I believe that studying in Ireland enables fellowship participants to bring back experience and qualifications to develop our respective country. For those who wish to apply for the Ireland Fellows Programme, you should have no reason to hesitate. All higher education institutions in Ireland are among the 3% global top ranking and support for international students is excellent. Start preparing your English and look for the application now.