Guidance on Thesis Topics, Not Ban, Should Improve Quality

OPINION
The Cambodia Daily

Despite its good intention to discourage plagiarism, the ban of research topics at the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE) should be much discussed; as it could have many negative consequences; “Law Students Told to Avoid Thesis Topics,” Monday, page 17. First, such a ban violates academic freedom as stipulated in Article 66 of the Constitution. Second, it discourages critical thinking of students who are interested in the barred topics and their potential contribution to our society. Topics such as drugs and land disputes are very important and still deserve answers from many perspectives. And it is too early to conclude that these topics have been well researched. Third, such a ban can kill student’s curiosity and the process of learning to do research. If we are not wrong, most of the new ideas and findings so far are achieved during and after the research. Such things apply even among world’s top researchers.

In research, in spite of the same topic and questions, students can still come up with different answers or different approaches to the same answers. If universities want to discourage plagiarism, they should come up with a good punishment system and a warning letter, rather than simply the ban. In addition, it is the role of the schools and their academic staffs to guide student to contribute new things in the topics of interests to students. In other words, if a student is interested in a specific topic, the school and supervisor should encourage and guide, rather discourage them.

Indeed, the depth of today’s knowledge stock is based on the persistent research on the same topics. That is why economic and social policies, technology, and medical science, for instance, get upgraded and improved over time.

Cambodia lost a lot of human resources during the wars and the Khmer Rough regime. Now, let us work together to accumulate Cambodia’s human capital. In this regard, only through encouragement and intellectual challenges can Cambodia produce a pool of clever, respected, caring, committed, and responsible citizens with high dignity. Cambodian society should therefore be re-engineered based on this rather than such a ban of research topics.

Where countries are today affects where they can go. Cambodia’s future and its development capacity in the coming decades depend what this country does today to promote the intellectual ability, critical thinking, talent and skills of its people. Thus, our journey to the next stage of development is to promote intellectual prowess and innovative thought by letting our students pursue research of their interest.

So, our plea to all universities – not only RULE – in Cambodia is please remove any ban on research now, otherwise we will be again a laughing stock of the world.

Heng Dyna, Oum Sothea, Chan Sophal and Vong Socheata
Cambodian Professional Group
Phnom Penh

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