THE Ministry of Education says it is removing the “high-level” option from the Kingdom’s national high school curriculum, putting all students on the same 10-subject courseload.
First implemented in 2008 with Grade 10 students, the high-level curriculum allowed students to focus their 24 class hours per week on five priority subjects: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and Khmer literature. Students in the “basic level” track study these subjects in addition to geography, history, earth science, English and morality.
Uo Eng, director general at the General Department of Education, said yesterday that the decision to jettison the high-level track was because of the difficulty of reflecting the high-level material on the Kingdom’s national Grade 12 exam.
“We would have to prepare differently designed tests, and it would be difficult for students if we implement this new curriculum,” Uo Eng said. Keeping all students in the basic curriculum will allow education authorities to administer a single exam to all students, Uo Eng said.
The high-level programme was developed beginning in 2005 to help students target subjects that they hoped to focus on at university; incoming Grade 12 students would have been the first to see it reflected on their exit exams.
Nhim Saroeun, a maths teacher at Phnom Penh’s Sisowath High School, said the high-level curriculum covered a good deal of useful material, but was a challenge for teachers and students to complete during the alloted class time.
“It’s too long for students and they find the tests difficult,” Nhim Saroeun said.
Chab Pheananimul, a Grade 12 student at Sisowath High School, said students had been apprehensive about how the high-level material would be tested on the exit exam.
“I don’t know what form the exam will take or how they will calculate grades for students if the ministry continues with the high-level programme,” Chab Pheananimul said.
Im Samrithy, executive director of the NGO Education Partnership, said selecting students for the high-level curriculum could allow them to focus in greater depth on their best subjects as they prepare for university. He noted, however, that classroom divisions could prove discouraging for students who were not doing high-level coursework.
But whatever the merits of the tracking system, Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the change in policy showed that Ministry of Education officials had not thought clearly about the system’s implementation.
“The ministry did not have a precise plan,” Rong Chhun said. “How can students have confidence in them?”
Despite the fact that the high-level track will no longer be available to students, Uo Eng said the Ministry of Education had no plans to remove a high-level mathematics textbook introduced as part of the curriculum reforms in 2008. Students and teachers have complained that the new maths lessons are overly challenging and time-consuming.
“The ministry is still discussing how to put this book into practice, but we will try to make it easier for students to understand,” Uo Eng said.