Near Cambodia's Temple Ruins, a Devotion to Learning
Millions of tourists come here every year to visit the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, an influx that has helped transform what once resembled a small, laid-back village into a thriving and cosmopolitan town with thumping nightlife and more than 10,000 hotel rooms.
But the explosion of the tourism industry here has also done something less predictable. Siem Reap, which had no universities a decade ago, is now Cambodia’s second-largest hub for higher education, after the capital, Phnom Penh.
The sons and daughters of impoverished rice farmers flock here to work as tour guides, receptionists, bartenders and waitresses. When their shifts are over, they study finance, English and accounting.
The establishment of five private universities here is helping to transform the work force in this part of Cambodia. Employers say that English proficiency is rising and that workers who attend universities stand out for their ability to express themselves and make decisions. A generation of students who would otherwise have had little hope to study beyond high school are enduring grueling schedules to get a degree and pursue their dreams.
Khim Borin, a 26-year-old tour guide by day and law student by night, says he wants to become a lawyer. But he sometimes has trouble staying awake in class during the high tourist season, when he spends hours scaling vertiginous temple steps and baking in the tropical sun.
But the symbiosis of work and study here came together without any master plan.
It was driven largely by supply and demand: universities opened to cater to the dreams of Cambodia’s youth — and offered flexible hours in sync with the rhythms of the tourist industry.
After graduation, students who work and study at the same time often have an edge over fresh graduates who have never worked before, for whom starting a career can be difficult, Ms. Chan and others say. University students are “more communicative,” she said. “If they don’t like something, they speak out.”
Ms. Chan and others say they are lucky that Angkor’s temples have proved so popular with tourists. If it were not for the sandstone structures nestled in the jungles, Siem Reap would probably have remained a backwater. Last year, 3.3 million tourists visited Siem Reap, half of them foreigners, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism.
India's Education Dream Risks Remaining Just That
At one of the better colleges in India’s capital, there is just one large room for 140 faculty members to sit and have a cup of tea or grade papers. “If even half show up, there aren’t enough chairs,” said Ghazala Amin, a history professor there. “There is no other place to work. In this situation, how do you expect teachers to work?”
The lack of amenities for faculty members is not the only issue. After 30 years at Jesus and Mary College, which is one of dozens administered by the University of Delhi, Ms. Amin makes the equivalent of $22,000 a year — less than half of what some of her better students will make in their first jobs. New opportunities offer not just more money for graduates but also mobility and flexibility, which are virtually unheard of for faculty at most of India’s colleges and universities.
All this means that India is facing a severe shortage of faculty members. But it is not just low pay and lack of facilities that are being blamed. According to a government report published last year, a massive expansion in higher education combined with a poor supply of Ph.D.’s, delays in recruitment and the lack of incentives to attract and nurture talent has led to a situation in which 40 percent of existing faculty positions remain vacant. The report’s authors, mostly academics, found that if the shortfall is calculated using the class size recommended by the government, this figure jumps to 54 percent.
Experts say this is the clearest sign that India will fail to meet the goal set by the education minister, who has pledged to more than double the size of the country’s higher education system by 2020. They say that while the ambition is laudable, the absence of a long-term strategy to develop faculty will ensure that India’s education dream remains just that.
Mr. Balakrishnan of India Institute of Technology in Delhi, meanwhile, was more optimistic. He felt India could enroll as much as 25 percent of eligible students in colleges and universities — about twice the current figure — by 2020. “Tangible changes are happening,” he said. “The debate that has happened in the last few years has taken people out of their comfort zones. There is more consensus across the board that we need to scale quality education.”
Improved human well-being is one of the greatest triumphs of the modern era. The age of plenty has also led to an unexpected global health crisis:two billionpeople are either overweight or obese. Developed countries have been especially susceptible to unhealthy weight gain.However, developing countries are now facing a similar crisis. Obesity rates have peaked in high income countries but are accelerating elsewhere. The combined findings of the World Health Organisation and the World Bank showed that in 2016 Asia was home to half the world’s overweight children. One quarter were in Africa. Residents of developing nation cities are increasingly susceptible to obesity. According to India’s National Institute of Nutrition, over a quarter of urban-dwelling men and nearly half of women are overweight.
The majority of the world’s future urbanisation is projected to occur in developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa. This crisis will test the political resolve of governments that have historically focused on ending hunger. These governments must understand that the factors making cities convenient and productive also make their residents prone to obesity. Urbanites enjoy a variety of food. Additionally, international fast food chains are flourishing in developing countries. The health risks of such diets are compounded bythe sedentary lifestyles of urban dwellers. People’s leisure time is also beingoccupied by television, movies, and video games in the growing number of households.The alarming implication of these trends is that developing countries may become sick before they get rich. That sickness may, in turn, cripple health systems.The yearly health care costs in Southeast Asia of obesity-related complications like diabetes and cardiovascular disease are already as high as US $10 billion. Such diseases are an added burden on countries already struggling to manage primary health care needs.Policies related to taxation, urban design, education and awareness and the promotion of localised food systems may help control obesity at a lower cost than eventual medical treatment for an ageing and increasingly overweight population.Some governments have already experimented with direct interventions to control obesity, such as taxation on unhealthy foods and drinks. The US pioneered the soda tax movement. Thailand, Brunei, and Singapore have adopted similar measures. South Africa is likely to introduce a sugar tax beginning in April 2018.The city of Berkeley in California recognizes that taxes alone are not enough to address obesity. Proceeds from the city’s sugar tax are used to support child nutrition and community health programmes. This underscores the importance of education and awareness.
There is also promise in initiatives. Urban design holds significant power to reshape lifestyle patterns and public health. Improving the attractiveness of public space can draw residents out of their cars and living rooms. A recent study of urban neighbourhoods in Shanghai and Hangzhou found that middle-income residents living in less walkable neighbourhoods had significantly higher Body Mass Indices than both richer and poorer residents who lived in walkable neighbourhoods in urban China.Finally, healthier lifestyles begin in grocery store aisles. Governments should encourage tighter connections between agricultural production systems, urban grocers and food vendors. Such initiatives can also help urban residents better understand the mechanics of food sourcing. This raises awareness about the relationship between natural foods and healthy lifestyles. Combining controls on unhealthy foods with policies that incentivise healthy eating and active lifestyles constitute a promising response to rising obesity rates. Improving public health is an important policy developing countries should take from both an economic and social point of view. To quote the recent Global Nutrition Report, reducing obesity will boost global development.