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The real price of education

This year’s best students sacrificed sleep for good marks
This year’s best students sacrificed sleep for good marks Charlotte Pert

The real price of education

This year’s high school standouts were rewarded for choosing not to cheat

Despite a crackdown on cheating during the recent grade 12 exams, Nheang Bora still paid for his results – in sleep.

The 19-year-old – one of only 11 students out of nearly 92,000 to receive an A – had a study plan from the start of the year that left him with little rest.

After classes at Phnom Penh’s Bak Touk High School, from 7pm until 11pm, he focused on mathematics, physics, chemistry, Khmer and biology homework and then rose at 4am to study more subjects.

“I think my results show how much I invested through the year,” he said.

Bora said he realised in grade nine it was not possible to achieve the grades he wanted by cheating.

The cheat sheets bought by students to take into exams were normally incomplete and could not be relied upon to provide excellent marks.

“I wanted to gain something real from my study, and if I cheat during this exam, where will that leave me with my future education?” Bora said.

“I wanted real knowledge – not just an exam result.”

For those who were aiming for top grades, the cheating crackdown meant little
For those who were aiming for top grades, the cheating crackdown meant little Charlotte Pert

Post Weekend spoke to six of the 11 high achievers about their dreams and aspirations – and how they did so well when so many others failed.

All shared a solid work ethic. Some said they studied hard because they believed warnings from the teachers that the crackdown was coming.

Others – like Bora – figured they couldn’t rely on illicitly acquired cheat sheets to get the mark they wanted.

None came from families with a lot of money.

Chhive Seu Sang, who attended Hun Sen Serei Pheap High School in Kandal province and was raised by a single mother, said his background didn’t hold him back – it motivated him.

“I have had many difficult challenges in my life, but I never gave up, and now I have taken the first step to achieve my goals,” he said.

All were more interested in science, maths and physics than the social science subjects like history and Khmer, and all wanted to continue their studies in technical fields.

Gifts from the top

During a meeting at the Council of Ministers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen showered the 11 students who received As in this year’s grade 12 examination with gifts.

He promised to provide each of them with a motorbike, a MacBook laptop, an iPod, extra study materials, $3,000 in cash and $100 a month until they graduated.

Additionally, those who lived far from their campus would get free accommodation. He also asked the students about the challenges they faced and for suggestions on how to improve the education system.

Chan Pichet, an 18-year-old from Presh Soramarith High School in Kampong Chhnang province who came first among all Cambodians at the Asian Physics Olympiad in Singapore and Kazakhstan this year, said he wanted to be a mechanical engineer.

“I would love to do a scientific major like medicine or engineering, but I am not sure which major I will choose, because if I have chance to study abroad I will go there,” he said.

Phang Veng An, a 18-year-old from Russey Keo High School, said he, too, wanted to be an engineer.

“I want to improve and develop Cambodia,” he said.

All agreed that the crackdown on cheating was a good thing for the Kingdom.

Inn Sreypov, an 18-year-old student from Samdech Chuon Nath Buddhist high school, said: “It is good that we can strengthen the education system like [we did] this year, because it has shown the quality of the students.”


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