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Students check an exam registration list at Chaktomuk High School in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district last year
Students check an exam registration list at Chaktomuk High School in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district last year. Vireak Mai

ACU tackles exam cheats

Cheating on national grade nine and 12 exams – which has been rampant in the past – just got harder.

The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) announced yesterday that it will enlist the services of independent NGOs, civil society groups and private companies to monitor the more than 100,000 test-takers this year tackling their last hurdle before attaining a lower-secondary school or upper-secondary school diploma.

“We have to cooperate if we want to end cheating,” said Om Yentieng, president of the ACU, adding that his staff of 200 was not enough to oversee more than 4,000 testing sites.

Yentieng said groups interested in monitoring exams can sign up next week, a change in the proctoring system that will take the burden – and the potential leniency – away from teachers.

The ACU was unable to provide details yesterday regarding potential reimbursement for the new, independent monitors, or how the monitors would be trained.

During last year’s tests, more than half a million dollars in bribes was funnelled to teachers in exchange for cheat sheets, answers posted on Facebook or a passing grade, according to a Youth and Resource Development study. Students found conducting any suspicious activity in the next round of exams will be kicked out.

“There are four months to go until the exam … [it is] time to tell parents and students they will have no more chances to cheat during exams,” ACU deputy director Kheang Seng said.

The Ministry of Education also sent out a guideline last week advising that the scores from national tests would no longer be averaged with students’ semester grades, according to San Chey, coordinator for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability-East Asia and the Pacific.

The national exams will also now take place at provincial education centres, rather than in every commune, a cause of worry among some.

“Students are very concerned about how they can afford to pay for the transportation, and lodging and food if they have to travel through the province to take their test,” San Chey said.

Still, he added, the kinks aren’t worth scrapping the accountability initiative.

“A culture of cheating leads to a poor quality of education,” he said. “It will be the legacy of the new Education Ministry if the tests are not so corrupt and the answers aren’t so widely leaked.”

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