In late 2005 when I first enrolled in the degree of Bachelor of Education (in TEFL) at the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL), there were around 30 students in my class, and more than half of them majored in another skill in another university. Today, while my sister is taking her Bachelor of Education (in TEFL) at IFL, she is, in her class of 30 students, the only person who takes only one major. In fact, my sister and I are not the only persons witnessing the increasing number of Cambodian university students majoring in two subjects at the same time. The trend of holding two university studies at the same time is going so wild now.
“Should I go for two majors at the same time?” is one of those questions that I am usually asked as a teacher of English language to high school and university students. It seems to me now that taking two majors at the same time has become a common phenomenon that Cambodian students especially those in high school and university do not find strange and want to do the same.
Personally, I majored in only one skill (TEFL) when I undertook my undergraduate study and have no regret that I did so. Instead, I am more than happy because if I had not done so, I would not be able to earn a living standard I am having now. Because I don’t really fancy the idea of taking two degrees at the same time, I have made it an effort to understand the reasons that students have and use to decide taking two majors concurrently. The following are 8 wrong reasons that Cambodian students use to major two degrees at the same time.
- Low tuition fee: tuition fee is relatively inexpensive in Cambodia. Without scholarship, one spends around $500 USD per academic year in undergraduate study if she/he goes to a local private school and around $2,000 USD a year for international private university. That the fee is not high makes it so easy for some particularly rich students to enroll in as many degrees as they like.
- Little physical presence demand: a normal university course in Cambodia demands little physical presence of the students, around 4 hours/day and 5 days/week. Some students actually believe that they should go to another school because they spend very few hours in one school. They just can’t stand the fact that they have a lot of free time. Also, because they have free time to stay at home or hang out a lot, their parents tend to pressure them to take more classes. From my humble opinion, this perception is rather wrong because one should be happy when they spend less time schooling. (I personally like as little schooling as possible; there are actually more fun and educational things than schooling). Instead of going for more schooling, one should take time to do some other educationally beneficial things—such as reviewing lessons, reading, going to library, and etc—which provide them in-depth understanding of what they have learnt and expand their general knowledge.
- Low level of difficulty: the level of difficulty and quality of a university course in Cambodian is still low. Perhaps because the educational system is developing, quantity appears to be more important than quality. Many schools in Cambodia focuses more on increasing the number of students in their school (by allowing cheating and other educationally unacceptable ways), than making curriculum and other standards in their school better. According to my experience as a student, it is rather easy to pass any university course in Cambodia. That’s why some self-proclaimed good students tend to believe that they are able to take two or three majors at the same time and still pass them all. However, this is not the ultimate purpose of learning. Real learning is not about passing course(s), but mastering the skills and using the knowledge acquired for benefits of the self and society.
- Low confidence in oneself: most students are unsure whether they can be good (above average) in a skill so that they can find a job in the area. That’s why they choose to have two skills in hand at least to show that they know many, though not best in any one. Such belief is actually wrong. To me, it is better to be best in a skill than mediocre in many. (Remember, people pay a lot only for the best). Also, anybody can be best in whatever they do if they invest their all-in efforts and time in the skill they want to master. Take me as an example. I was a complete gangster when I started my journey at IFL. But when I graduated, I was one of the most outstanding students in my challenging and competitive batch.
- High appreciation for certificate: the perception that certificate or recognition paper is more important than knowledge still exists. Sadly, this it is true in Cambodia. Some students study to get certificate only, and there are many schools actually assisting such behaviors to happen, which is absolutely contradictory to the real purpose of education. True ability is not in paper, but in real-life performance. Again, that you attend any course or major is because you want knowledge, not because you want paper(s) even though it is best to have both.
- Wrong reflection on social trend: have you ever heard students say “my friends are doing it, so I should do the same too”? This is called peer pressure, which usually has a huge impact on students especially those who just finish high school. Personally I did it too when I finished high school. Together with two of my high school friends, I took Laws for one semester and ended up quitting. Peer pressure is one of the strongest influences on teens’ decisions because of the close bond between peers themselves and sophisticated socialization. Psychologically speaking, a teen may do whatever other teens in their group do in order to belong to that group. This, however, is not a good thing for teens to follow. I believe with all my heart that one should decide by him/herself when it comes to decision making because no two people are the same in this world and because it is the person who is responsible for his/her decisions.
- Wrong reflection on market demand: Generally speaking, students are not good analysts on job demand in the market. Yet, they seem to depend on their analysis so much when they make decision to study. Now, if I’m not mistaken, a lot of Cambodian students tend to think that people who know two or many things have more chance to get a job than those who know one. According to my experience as a student, employee, teacher and entrepreneur, it is not the knowing that guarantees employment. But, it is the quality of the knowing that does. Believe me or not, being a mediocre on 100 things can’t be compared to or is not as good as being the best in 1 thing at all. The world is full of mediocre, and in desperate demand of the outstanding and excellent.
- High value on schooling: schooling or studying in school is usually perceived as more important for students than other activities such as part-time jobs, internship, or self-study. This is true both in students’ and parents’ perception. When I was a university student, my parents unanimously agreed that I had to concentrate on my study—without thinking about having a job at all—because I was at the age of study and I had to study. Personally, I guess my parents’ belief is shared by many other parents, at least those in Cambodia. That’s why they are willing to financially support their children to study, even take two ore many degrees at the same time. ‘The more schools you go, the better you becomes’ has a strong impact on parents. However, this is a wrong belief because schooling is just a part or method of education. There are many other ways to gain knowledge than sit in class and learn from the teacher(s). For instance, one can read books, watch educational TV on program, take a job, join study field trip, and etc. So, never fall to believe that schooling is everything because it isn’t true at all.
In conclusion, I want to end this article by stressing on a fact that taking two degrees at the same time is not always a bad more if (and it is a big IF) you are able to catch up with all the subjects in the majors and be best at both of them like most people that I have witnessed doing so. The purpose of learning or schooling is to acquire and be the best in a skill or many skills. So, watch out for quality, not quantity.