By Phatry Derek PanPhnom Penh Post, Issue 15 / 10, May 19 - June 1, 2006
Don't tell wiz-kid Dy Kuchsa that Cambodia's young scholars aren't ready for international competition.
The 16-year-old Phnom Penh resident has just returned from the International Junior Science Olympiad (IJSO) in Indonesia with Cambodia's lone gold medal - its first at the prestigious annual event."
My family is poor. My country is poor. But never underestimate the ability of our people, especially the students," Dy told the Post at his parents' one-bedroom home near the Tuol Slen Genocide Museum.
The IJSO featured grueling competition between 200 of the brainiest students from 36 countries including England, Russia, Thailand and Taiwan. Two separate committees evaluated each student's knowledge in the fields of physics, biology and chemistry through three rounds of testing.
The exhausting three-day examination featured a rigorous three-hour multiple-choice test, a writing analysis and a laboratory experiment on water absorption performed before a live audience. Dy scored a total of 79.75 points out of 100 possible and received one of only 20 gold medals awarded.
Fame has followed. Since winning the prestigious prize, Dy has been interviewed by Phnom Penh radio stations, featured in newspapers and has made several appearances on TV.
According to postings on the most-visited Khmer web site, Khmer Connection, dozens of Cambodians have stepped forward to praise the efforts of Dy and the other local students who competed in IJSO. Some overseas Cambodians are talking about establishing a foundation to support gifted students in their pursuit of education in Cambodia and abroad.
"Undoubtedly, we are proud of Dy's and the others' accomplishment at IJSO," said Puthearorth Kov, 24, a graduate student at the University of Washington's College of Education in Seattle. "Though early in the stage of dialogue, some of my colleagues have started brainstorming ideas on what to do next. Ideally, we want to foster their educational needs, even if that means bringing them to study in the US or elsewhere.
"Though his family is overjoyed with Dy's achievements, and the prospect of support from overseas, Dy's father still lectures him about maintaining a strict studying regime.
"I do this to all my five kids, not just Kuchsa," said Dy San Thlang, 50. "Every day, I limit their television habits. They usually study for three to four hours after school, then read English, French and Khmer literature and do their homework. In their free time, I urge them to spend it wisely and productively.
"Dy is now cramming hard for Cambodia's annual National Science Competition for incoming high school seniors.
"I am in the tenth grade, so I have over a year and a half to prepare myself for the competition - I can't stop now," Dy said.
"If I had the opportunity to study abroad, I would select Japan out of all the countries in the world simply because the country is so technologically advanced. When I grow up, I want to be an engineer."