The third year of Grade-12 exit exams since a major overhaul of a system ridden with cheating has again produced reason for optimism, with 62 percent of students passing the now tightly monitored national test.
A total of 89,661 students sat the exam on August 22 and 23, with 55,753 passing, according to official results released on Saturday and yesterday by the Ministry of Education.
The figures represent an improvement from last year’s pass rate of 55.8 percent, which significantly improved on the disastrous 25.7 percent pass rate of 2014, the first year in which the government cracked down on widespread cheating.
And while the bulk of those who passed – 38,117 – barely made it with a grade of E, the number of students who aced the exam jumped to 405, from only 108 last year. By comparison, just 11 students in the country earned an A in 2014.
Phnom Penh had the most A’s this year with 183, followed by Siem Reap with 36 and Battambang with 34.
Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said the improvement in the passage rate proves that a variety of other reforms implemented by Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron – including curriculum changes and improved teacher training are proving effective.
It also shows that students’ mindsets about the exam are changing, he added, calling it a successful collaboration among students, parents, the ministry and the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, which has overseen enforcement.
“That’s why we are very proud of the outcome that we have this year,” he said yesterday. “The grade A [performers] increased. [The students] have real competence in terms of knowledge.”
ACU officials could not be reached for comment.
Meun Rathana, 19, was one of several students who spoke to the Post on Saturday as they checked their results at the capital’s Sisowath High School.
Rathana said the exam results exceeded her expectation as she had been “nervous” about her “abilities”. She earned a B. “I did the exam myself,” she said. “I did not cheat.”
Seventeen-year-old Xom Kimmey, meanwhile, said that she was more than “happy” with a D.
“I had hoped that I would pass with a grade D,” she said near a board where scores had been posted.
“The results were like I guessed.”
But not everyone had a reason to celebrate. Chrm Molika said that while she had studied a lot, she had still failed.
“I will try to study again,” she said in tears. “I won’t stop. I want to pass.”
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International in Cambodia, yesterday said this year’s results are an indication of improvement in terms of students’ knowledge. They are working harder to prepare themselves for the exam because they know they can’t cheat, he said.
However, there’s still room for improvement.
“Although the overall passage rate has increased, students still need to earn better marks,” he said.
San Chey, executive director of good governance NGO the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said his organisation had heard from a third party that there were errors with an exercise in the chemistry and biology portion of the exam, and students had been automatically given 15 points for chemistry and five points for biology to compensate.
However, the Education Ministry’s Salin flatly denied there had been errors in the examination. Regardless, Chey said, the pass numbers showed legitimate improvement from the nation’s students.
“The candidates are getting better,” he said.