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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Top two students slam cheating

Top two students slam cheating

The only two grade-A students in Cambodia say that the government

needs to do more to curb cheating and bribery to ensure that exam

results really reflect students' abilities


Heng Kothai from Siem Reap province obtained 100 percent in his exams, as well as A’s in five subjects.

Chhay Sopanhana was lucky to be born into

a family that values learning, while Heng Kothai is a perfectionist.

For both, hitting the books has paid off: they were the only students

in Cambodia to receive perfect exam scores out of a field of 55,178 who

passed their high school finals.

Chhay Sopanhana, 17, from Hun Sen Sereypheap High School in Kandal

province's Takhmao town, said she was delighted when she received news

of her 99.99 percent exam result. "I did my best to receive this grade.

It makes me happy and proud of myself and my whole family is also proud

of me," she said.

As the youngest daughter of a health official in Kandal province, Chhay

Sopanhana is now on holiday and is preparing for university.

"I am interested in studying medicine because my father is a doctor and

my older sister is also approaching this field," she said, adding that

she thought her outstanding grades might owe something to the fact she

was  "lucky to be born in a family that is encouraging me to pursue

higher education".

Despite obtaining the highest possible grades in all subjects at

school, Chhay Sopanhana feels that her foreign-languages skills still

need some work. "I stopped learning languages for one year because I

was focusing on my school exams," she explained. "I need to learn more

English and French to compete with other students when I enter

university," she said, adding that English would be essential in the

future were she to apply for overseas scholarships to pursue her

education still further.

Pech Lang, who was Chhay Sopanhana's math professor, told the Post that

the A student had only used her own knowledge during the exam and did

not cheat. "Sopanhana has been an outstanding student in Kandal

province," she said.

Heng Kothai, the only other student in the country to obtain grade-A

marks, also cited a perceived weakness in foreign languages as a factor

of concern.

Despite admitting to a slight obsession with perfection, Heng Kothai

says that what really got him his grades was his work ethic.

He said he is confident this will stand him in good stead when he

tackles improving his language skills. "My English is not as good as my

general subjects at school, but if I study hard like I studied for my

exam results, I will achieve success."

The Siem Reap native received an overall exam score of 100 percent, and

said he got an A in five subjects: maths, philosophy, biology, physics

and chemistry.

"I only got one C for English," he added ruefully. 

"I must study hard to improve my English results," he said, adding that

he admires Phnom Penh students' access to finances and education.

"I am not rich enough to pay for a part-time tutor," he said.

Widespread cheating


Kandal province’s Chhay Sopanhana says she will study medicine.

The news of widespread bribery and cheating during the exams

comes as no surprise to Heng Kothai. "Students are cheating all over

the country," he said. "It is normal in Cambodia that students collect

money for proctors. Government measures to crack down on such bad

habits seem ineffective," he said.

According to Heng Kothai, even noncheating students have to cough up

cash for teachers. "It is a must to get all 25 students in the

examination room to pay," he said. "I did not cheat so I did not pay,

but proctors demanded all students to pay, so my friend spent money for

me. Everyone knows I did not cheat."

The student is now in Phnom Penh searching for an appropriate

university to continue his education. "I want to pursue my degree in

civil engineering [as] it is easy to find a good job in this field."

Nhoek Sakun, deputy head of the Department of High Schools at the Siem

Reap Provincial Education Department, said that he was happy to see a

student in his province receive one of the only two perfect scores in

the country. "The good result shows his true capacity: He is an

outstanding student in Siem Reap," he said.

However, Nhoek Sakun admitted that outstanding students with a sense of

ethics were a rarity. "We cannot prevent all cheating. Cheating still


Chroeng Lim Sry, of the Ministry of Education, said he was pleased to

see that the two students who received A's used only their knowledge to

pass the exam.



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