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Just one chance at exam this year

Students check a notice board with second-round exam results at a high school in Phnom Penh
Students check a notice board with second-round exam results at a high school in Phnom Penh last year. Heng Chivoan

Just one chance at exam this year

High school students who fail the national exams this year will not be getting a second chance like their 2014 counterparts.

While some extenuating and unavoidable circumstances will be taken into consideration, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced yesterday that final-year students would only get one shot at a passing grade.

The decision comes after the ministry clamped down on cheating during last year’s grade 12 exams, leading to a drop in the pass rate from 87 per cent in 2013 to a disastrous 25 per cent.

In the wake of the embarrassing plunge, Prime Minister Hun Sen personally intervened to announce a resit for those who had failed the all-important tests, which are essential qualifications for accessing most university degree courses.

In November, a second round of tests was held in the hopes that more of the roughly 60,000 students who failed in the first round would pass. Only 18 per cent of those who re-sat the exams passed, while no students gained A or B grades and only one student reached a C. Only 11 students nationwide among the initial group to pass had obtained an A.

The Education Ministry said in a statement yesterday that it would work with the Anti-Corruption Unit again this year to stop cheating.

“Cooperation with the Anti-Corruption Unit is needed to observe the exam process, and a second exam will not be needed, except in cases of force majeure,” the statement said.

Hang Chuon Naron, minister of education, said that the ministry was unable to afford to organise re-sits this year, so students would need to work harder in order to be able to go to university.

“We would like to urge candidates to work as hard as they can, because this year there will not be a second exam, unless there are extenuating circumstances,” he said.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said that while it was a good idea to restrict the number of tests students were allowed to take, the move must be accompanied by a serious effort to improve schooling from a young age.

“If we just limit the number of high school exams, it will make it impossible for students. They cannot get educated without quality learning provision,” he said.

He added that the government should address the lack of educational materials in schools, such as text books and stationary.

Last year, the Education Ministry requested an additional $2.5 million from the treasury to fund the second round of exams.

Education watchdogs were critical that the government had shelled out millions of dollars given that only a small minority of students passed.

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