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School officials pat down students as they enter the second round of grade 12 national exams at Baktuk High School
School officials pat down students as they enter the second round of grade 12 national exams at Baktuk High School in Phnom Penh yesterday. Hong Menea

Thousands skip second exam

The grade 12 national exam retest concluded yesterday with few irregularities and even fewer students attempting to secure themselves a passing score and a diploma than the government had anticipated.

After suffering a collective humiliation at the initial exam in August – when a whopping 74 per cent of students failed – just over 60,000 candidates took a second shot at the two-day test, 7,365 test-takers shy of the Education Ministry’s registry.

At some schools in Oddar Meanchey only a small handful of registered students came to the test. In Kandal, where the highest number of registered candidates sat out round two, 1,519 students were absent.

“Most of the absentees are non-students who are not enrolled in grade 12 but registered for the exam for their high school certificates. Some are over 50 years old,” said Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron. “If they had taken the exam in previous years [due to cheating] they might have passed, but now it is too difficult.”

The ministry shelled out $2.5 million on the test’s second round, which was called after so few mustered a passing score when faced with uncompromising anti-cheating measures.

“We didn’t take the reforms seriously. Every year the Ministry of Education said they would reform the test and every year students were able to cheat or find copies of the exam,” said one rueful student from Bak Touk High School.

But with more than 20,000 observers and armed Anti-Corruption Unit police sent out to monitor the 117 exam sites, students feared “even turning around in their seats”.

Just 38 irregularities were recorded during the first round, and only three violations have been reported for the second, according to the Anti-Corruption Unit.

A family who tried to sell fake answer sheets at Bak Touk High School and a man posing as an exam observer were arrested and then released on Monday. An independent observer who attempted to bring unauthorised people into an exam site was dismissed. So far, no students have been reported as failing due to cheating attempts.



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