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Exam results show gender divide

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Girls easily out performed boys in August's high school exams, prompting a Ministry of Education plan to re-engage a generation of disinterested male students

VANDY RATANNA

Male and female students gather around a newly posted list of their exam results earlier this year.

ALMOST 40 percent of males failed their high school exams compared with just over 30 percent of girls, according to the Kingdom's latest set of exam results.

The growing gender gap is leading officials to develop a plan of action, but they remain unclear on how best to tackle the disturbing trend.

"We need to investigate why more male students are failing their exams than female," said  Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport Secretary of State Pith Chamnan.  "One of the simple explanations is that male students do not study as hard, and we need to work with the parents of male students on this problem."

He said that  the results were not caused by government policy.

Just 65.92 percent of male students passed the high school exam this year, compared with 77.26 percent of females.

 The ministry says it is preparing an action plan to encourage male high school students to pay more attention to studies.

Similar findings have long been identified in Western countries, including the US, Australia and parts of Europe.

One American study says that girls have a better understanding of social cues and are more disciplined.

Superior female achievement in high school continues into university, with more females enrolling and completing their degrees.

In the United States in 2004, 58 percent of all bachelor degrees were earned by women.

Im Sithe, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said that she is happy with the success of female students in Cambodia. 

"We [and the ministry] try very hard to make sure girls are comfortable in their studies by ... championing the importance of female education and encouraging parents to send their daughters to school," she said.

Rong Chhun, President of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the results worry his organisation. "We have many examples that prove boys are more likely than girls to act up and skip class if their parents are not strictly observing their study," he said.

En Vannak, 42, a mother and business woman from Oddar Meanchey province, agrees with his assessment.

"In previous times I have not paid attention to my son's studies because I have been busy," she said. "But now I frequently contact his teachers to ask about his progress. I don't believe teachers have enough time to look after my son, so I have to take the time to follow him."

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