The results of this year’s much-improved grade 12 national exams have left some with less to celebrate than others, as government data showed a continued large disparity between male and female performances as well as across provinces.
According to detailed results released on the Ministry of Education’s website, 60 per cent of girls taking this year’s test passed, while just 44 per cent of boys could say the same.
Overall, girls outperformed their counterparts in all but four provinces Boys performed at an even more dismal rate in Kampong Speu, where less than 36 per cent of male candidates passed the exam, and only slightly better in Koh Kong, with a 38 per cent pass rate.
Kampong Speu province, despite seeing significant improvement – it climbed from a dismal pass rate of under 17 per cent in 2014 to 42 per cent this year – still maintained its place as the lowest-ranked province in the country.
In the Kingdom as a whole, 56 per cent of candidates passed the high school exit exam, compared to 26 per cent last year, when sweeping anti-cheating reforms were introduced to the historically corrupt test.
Other areas that fared poorly by comparison this year included Koh Kong, Kandal and Kampong Cham provinces.
Like last year, the Kingdom’s urban centres did not necessarily outperform rural schools, with Mondulkiri taking a surprise top spot, with four out of five applicants receiving passes or above.
But Mondulkiri also saw the fewest number of candidates in the entire country sit for the exam, with just 211 students registered to take it.
Other provinces finishing in the upper echelon of pass rates included Svay Rieng, Kep and Preah Vihear.
Responding to the results yesterday, Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron, who has spearheaded reforms of the tests, said reasons for the differing performances across provinces were threefold.
“It’s about the students themselves, the quality of teachers and their living standards,” he said.
Regarding ongoing gender gaps, Chuon Naron said the ministry was “still trying to work that out”.
But, he added, “I believe one of the reasons is that boys seem careless and fall for entertaining activities” rather than studying.
“Of course, funds will later go to the areas where improvement is needed.”
Separately, those who failed this year’s exam have already begun filing complaints with the ministry, which allocated a 30-day period for appeals to be made. One of the candidates asking for a review yesterday was Ly Mala, a student from Preah Sihanouk High School in Kampong Cham province.
Mala said that after comparing answers with a friend following the exam, he believed there were discrepancies in the marking.
“We [my friend and I] got the same and similar answers . . . but my friend got a B and I failed. I hope that the ministry will review this,” he said.
Another failed candidate, Muong Sominea from Chea Sim Samaki High School in Phnom Penh, also suggested that “there might have been some mistakes with the marking”.
But when Sominea attempted to file an appeal at the ministry yesterday, he said he was “chased away without any clear instruction” of what to do next.
Chuon Naron yesterday maintained that marking this year had been “very accurate”.
But, he said, “we still welcome those who are not satisfied with their result to file complaints”, which should include a letter of support from a teacher.
Some who will not be disputing their results are the 108 candidates that scored A grades in this year’s test.
The high-achievers, 48 of whom were from Phnom Penh, mingled yesterday at an event organised by the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP), where they discussed scholarships, according to AUPP adviser Puy Kea.
“Many students got A and B grades [this year], so the university decided to offer 120 scholarship positions, but it does not mean that they are all going to get one because the program requires knowledge of a foreign language,” Kea said.
The A-grade candidates are scheduled to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen this morning at Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace where they are expected to receive gifts.