For the third year in row, students scoring an A on Cambodia’s high-stakes Grade 12 exit exam were granted an audience with Prime Minister Hun Sen and lavished with gifts, while the Ministry of Education came in for its own accolades on reforms that are beginning to show signs of success.
All 405 A students – 204 females and 201 males – met the premier at the Peace Palace, where they each received 2 million riel (about $500), a Samsung tablet and a silver coin, said ministry spokesman Ros Salin.
“The three-year education reform is bearing fruits,” Hun Sen said, pointing to the year-by-year increase in top performers. In 2014, the first year after strict anti-cheating measures were put in place, only 11 students nationally scored a grade of A.
The premier also quizzed the assembled students on whether they approved of his recent decision to require A, B and C students hoping to become teachers to sit the entrance exam, a reversal of his year-old decision to waive it for the Grade 12 test’s top performers.
The majority of students in attendance dutifully raised their hands in support of the move.
Requiring all hopeful teachers to once again sit the entrance exam was due in part to the fact that the pool of A, B and C performers increased this year, with 2,801 Bs and 5,595 Cs, according to Salin.
“It will create another round of competition to select the best of the best,” he said.
Sor Immalita, 17, and Oun Jilen, 17, who both attended Phnom Penh’s Tuol Tompoung High School, were ecstatic on their way out of the Peace Palace.
The duo said they planned to go into the medical field to improve the country’s struggling health sector.
“We can help our country,” Jilen said.