Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence in Cambodian Education

hoto shows students at a New Generation School in Phnom Penh.

“Teachers must try to understand the artificial intelligence (AI) that is currently being developed for ease of learning and teaching and further to develop students, social development, and education,” Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron said during an alumni-student event at the Phnom Penh Teacher Education College in April.  

The message reflects the encouragement for educators to explore and use AI to benefit the teaching and learning processes. 

The development of generative AI, such as ChatGPT, can benefit and challenge education, as noted in UNESCO's policy guidance 2021. 

According to the guidance, AI can revolutionize education by providing personalized learning, efficient administrative systems, and enhanced teaching tools. 

In contrast, it poses threats related to data privacy, algorithmic biases, and the potential exacerbation of existing inequalities. The document noted the transformative potential of AI in education while calling for careful consideration of ethical implications and robust policy frameworks. 

While advocating the use of AI to facilitate teaching and learning, this article calls for Cambodian educators to focus on the ethical issue concerning plagiarism in higher education institutions.

Plagiarism is defined as an act of 

“Presenting work or ideas from another source as your own, with or without consent of the original author, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition, as is the use of material generated wholly or in part through use of artificial intelligence (save when use of AI for assessment has received prior authorisation e.g. as a reasonable adjustment for a student’s disability). Plagiarism can also include re-using your own work without citation. Under the regulations for examinations, intentional or reckless plagiarism is a disciplinary offence.” 

Augustus M. Kolich argues that plagiarism undermines the moral fabric of education. He suggests that educators should focus on fostering students' commitment to intellectual inquiry and originality, not just implementing safeguards, because the academic setting is complex and associated with the emotional response. 

There are various factors why students plagiarize. A cross-cultural study suggests that the lack of time within the demanding schedule and poor academic writing skills force students to plagiarize. 

The other study also suggests that students' acceptance of plagiarism is influenced by their moral standards, educational discipline, and sociocultural factors. 

In Cambodia, almost no studies have been done on how Cambodian universities address the issue of plagiarism. However, we understand that whether Cambodian students cheat in exams or not is associated with the school curriculum, teacher treatment, parental attitude, peer behavior and institutional policies.  

Responding to the advancement of AI, a dozen of the world's top-ranking universities adopted certain strategies, including strengthening the academic integrity policy to strictly address plagiarism, designing assessments to reduce or limit the chances that students might cheat, and communicating to students how to use AI properly.

A similar strategy has not been publicly announced yet by most Cambodian universities, except the University of Puthisastra (UP) — the only Cambodian university ranked in Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). 

UP has formulated several policies to address the issue of AI and plagiarism, including but not limited to the Academic Integrity Policy and the Use of AI Policy. 

Personal anecdotes as an educator in Cambodian higher education for more than two decades indicate that most students copy and paste someone’s work to submit to their teachers as their original work without realizing that it is not only ethically wrong but could also face legal action concerning the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works 1886 and its amendment in 1979 that Cambodia ratified. The Berne Convention entered into force in Cambodia on 9 March 2022.  

It is time for educators to end plagiarism in Cambodian education. 

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, is just like a public library. Students should be encouraged to use it to explore ideas, but they must be responsible for identifying the credibility and validity of the information generated from it. 

They must also cite correctly and properly according to the academic citation standard to give credit to the original author. This is not only an ethical way to do it but also legally bound with consequences. 


Chum Chandarin is Associate Professor and Director of Research at the University of Puthisastra.

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