Despite assurances from the Ministry of Education that its test materials were confidential and secure, detailed, palm-sized cheat sheets were readily available for purchase as nationwide university entrance exams began yesterday – adding to already widespread accusations of improprieties on behalf of proctors and students alike.
In addition to the answer sheets being copied and sold for $5 per subject at examination stations, a detailed cheat sheet was uploaded to Facebook as well, while some students claimed proctors collected anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 riel ($1.25 to $2.50) to turn a blind eye to students copying answers from each other during the exam, students and observers said.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodia Independent Teachers’ Association, said yesterday that he had received reports not only from Phnom Penh but from as far afield as Stung Treng, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kandal and Pursat provinces that chemistry and biology exam materials had been leaked.
“The exam papers being leaked happens repeatedly, which shows the exam paper protectors are careless or they collude systematically with each other in the examination station, and that is the reason why the leaks still take place,” he said.
Chhun pointed to a Facebook account purportedly belonging to Chamroeun University of Poly-Technology president Chea Chamroeun, where a cheat sheet had been scanned and uploaded, and called on the Ministry of Education to find out if the account really belonged to Chamroeun.
If it was the university administrator’s account, he said, it is a “big mistake, because this action disqualifies the real knowledge of Cambodian students, and it is also an act of destroying the prosperity of our national education field”.
Chamroeun could not be reached for comment, and a woman who answered the phone number listed on his Facebook page, Sin Nita, said she had nothing to do with the profile, and didn’t “understand why the owner of this Facebook page put my number on that”.
Ministry of Education official Ung Ngor Hok said yesterday that he had received information about irregularities, and had already examined the cheat sheet posted to Facebook.
“Those answer sheets are not correct; they were completely fake,” he said. “We will investigate it.”
Ngor Hok also said he did not believe Chamroeun was behind the offending Facebook page but vowed to look into it.
Though the ministry denied allegations that the answer sheets circulating around the country were real, students at Bun Rany Wat Phnom High School – where Education Minister Im Sethy and Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong opened exams yesterday morning – said that at least some cheat sheets matched the tests perfectly. However, they added, the sheets weren’t the only ways to give oneself an academic advantage.
“I spent around 30,000 riel [$7.50] in exchange for taking my iPhone in, and 10,000 riel in exchange for copying the answer sheets posted on Facebook,” said one female student, who asked not to be named.
The payoffs had been accepted by both a proctor and a standby teacher observing the classroom, she added.
Conversely, student Kit Udom had a different experience. Teachers and proctors were strict at his station, confiscating all the answer sheets brought from outside, he said.
“They warned us not to collect money for them, otherwise, they would stop that student from taking the exam and would report them to the exam commission,” Udom said. “I am so disappointed that other students can copy the answer sheet and we cannot.”