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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The obvious art of cheating

The obvious art of cheating

H IGH school examinations in Cambodia can be a family affair - the students sit

the exam, their relatives help them to cheat.

If the example of one Phnom

Penh school is anything to go by, parents are among the biggest culprits helping

students to cheat the examination system.

"I want to help my son," said a

father outside a window of Toul Tompong High School, where his son was being

tested inside.

Poring over a textbook, the man searched for the answers

to questions on the exam paper passed to him by his son through the window. When

ready, the answers would go back the same way.

"I don't want my son to

repeat the [year's] class again. You know, if he repeats, we will lose time and

money for his school materials.

"I think maybe this will help him

anyway," the man laughed.

"This is not only me, others do the same. And

some of the students have photocopied papers with the answers on

them."

The father was one of about 20 people - parents, brothers, sisters

or friends of students inside - gathered outside the school on July 7, the last

day of national end-of-year exams.

They made no attempt to hide what they

were doing - except when they spied a Post photographer - and nor did they need

to.

There were 15 policemen stationed on St. 155 next to the school,

charged with stopping such cheating, but they were less than

effective.

They did a good job of stopping traffic and ensuring no-one

could drive into the school, but people were still free to wander into the

grounds.

Ridiculously, some of the police were sitting with a group of

people busily copying answers from textbooks.

"I don't want to stop

them," said one police officer.

Pondering over an examination paper, he

suggested it was too hard anyway: "I don't think students will be able to get

all these answers."

Stopping cheating, he said, was the job of the

examiners. If they wanted to prevent outside contact with the students, they

should do so.

One student, Sok Chenda, said that relatives or friends

also wrapped notes around stones which were then tossed to

students.

Sometimes, a bare stone would come flying into an examination

room - having lost the piece of paper wrapped around it.

Inside the room,

students found it easy to look at each other's answers but were forbidden to

talk to each other, Chenda said.

Heng Bun Tha, in charge of supervising

the July 7 exam sat by 1,530 students, said he had asked teachers to ensure

there was no cheating.

"I told all the examiners to close the windows and

take any prepared answers from the students, or papers from

outside.

"This is fair enough," he said.

When a Post reporter

returned to his car parked outside the school, he found four or five people

using it as a table while copying answers from a textbook.

Corruption and

cheating has dogged the Cambodian education system for years, but previously the

biggest concern has been teachers selling exam answers to

students.

Minister of Education Tol Lah, a strong opponent of corruption,

said he had instructed teachers to ensure exams were honest and

just.

"You can imagine what happens if a mother gives $50 to her children

to buy answers. If the children learn how to practice corruption, what do you

think they will do when they grow up?" he said.

While corruption and

cheating had not been 100 per cent eliminated, Tol Lah believed there was far

less than a few years ago.

A teacher at Takmao High School told the Post

that the sale of exam answers had been stopped but teachers were now turning to

charging unofficial school fees from students.

She said students were

asked for 200 or 300 riels per day. Some teachers were also offering private

classes at a higher cost, telling their students they would fail if they did not

attend them.

"We understand that this is not good, but we have to do it

for our survival. We cannot live...on our salary of 50,000 or 60,000 riels [a

month]," the teacher said.

A student at another school said he was asked

for 200 riels a day for "school materials".

Tol Lah said he was trying to

reduce such behavior but "it is not easy to solve this kind of problem because

we cannot improve teachers' salaries."

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