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Student Essay Published in International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

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An International Development student attending Josef Korbel School recently published an article in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. The article, “Education and Gender in Contemporary Cambodia,” is the product of years of interest in the region for Mary N. Booth.

Booth credits taking Education and Development with Dr. Devin Joshi and Gender and Development with Dr. Sally Hamilton for her increased focus on education and gender equality in Cambodia. She originally wrote and submitted the article as a final exam for Dr. Hamilton’s class in the winter quarter of 2013.

“The paper essentially takes a look at the current status of education in Cambodia through the high school level, and girls' place within it’” Booth said. “I look both at some of the problems that public education has overall in Cambodia and the specific challenges girls face within the system.”

Almost 7 years ago, Booth took a trip to Cambodia, fell in love with the country and was overwhelmed by the lack of social services. With a Cambodian friend, she co-founded an English language training school in the small town of Pouk—the International Volunteer Development Centre (IVDC). Pouk was chosen as it is far enough outside of Siem Reap to not be serviced by the many NGO’s within the city, and therefore had greater need. The small school currently enrolls about 200 students with a staff of three teachers, an administrator and supporting staff. In addition, English speaking natives frequently volunteer at the school to help the students with pronunciation and practice in speaking the language.

Booth came to the Josef Korbel School uncertain as to where exactly her education would take her, but knowing she needed a firmer foundation if the IVDC was to develop into a productive and sustainable entity.

“In particular, I think that studying at the Korbel School has been extraordinarily helpful in that it has helped me hone my focus,” Booth said. “And that is on top of the wealth of knowledge that I’ve gained in both development theory and in practical application practices. I think my critical thinking skills have improved. I've learned a lot about what to look for in terms of development; how to approach development in a way that makes sense and has a lasting impact.”

With encouragement from Dr. Hamilton, Booth went back to her essay after the winter quarter and revised it for submission. When the paper was published, it came as a huge surprise to Booth. “I was thrilled. I did not expect it. My expectation was that I wouldn't be published, but would receive feedback on how I could improve my writing skills so as to be published in the future,” she said. “I think what it will mean to me in the future is it will lend more credibility to any work, projects and possibly other research projects I undertake, and hopefully it will look good to a prospective employer.”

“What my research turned up was that a ground level-up approach is going to be the best option for improving both education and the status of women in Cambodia. I personally think, and the research showed, that the Cambodian government is great at passing resolutions when another country tells them to. They are not great at enforcing those resolutions. So I think the best way for things to change—and this is a long term process; it’s not going to happen overnight—is to start with the schools at the village and provincial level, working to improve education for all students, and at the same time developing girls and boys for a future that includes girls playing an equal part in the building of the nation.”

Booth remains actively involved with the Cambodian school and will be making her sixth trip to Cambodia in 2016.

To read Booth’s article, visit