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Don't fail pregnant test-taker: ministry

School and medical staff help Pich Sam Ath into an ambulance early last week at Koh Kong’s Chea Sim Smach Meanchey Secondary School after going into labour during an exam.
School and medical staff help Pich Sam Ath into an ambulance early last week at Koh Kong’s Chea Sim Smach Meanchey Secondary School after going into labour during an exam. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Don't fail pregnant test-taker: ministry

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is asking that a pregnant woman rushed out of this year’s national exam after going into labour not be given a score of zero for the missed subject, an action that would see her fail the entire exam.

Twenty-five-year-old Pich Sam Ath had sat all but one of the national exam papers when she went into labour during her maths test last Tuesday.

Sam Ath was rushed out of the exam hall in Koh Kong province’s Chea Sim Smach Meanchey Secondary School and taken to hospital to give birth.

According to Ministry of Education spokesman Ros Salin, students who score zero in any subject automatically fail the entire test. And, with no re-sits available this year, those who don’t make the grade will be forced to reapply in 2016.

But, Salin said, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has intervened in an attempt to ensure that Sam Ath’s labour doesn’t stop her from achieving a high school diploma.

“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs [wrote a letter in which they] asked us not to give her a score of zero,” he said.

“Therefore, we are viewing this as a special case. The ministry is waiting until after the exam marking period is finished, and we will look into this and decide what measures to take.”

Salin added that Sam Ath’s case had also drawn criticism on social media, with users calling for the ministry to let her pass.

The spokesman said things had been complicated by the fact that she was an adult candidate who was no longer attending classes as a full-time student.

“She is a non-student candidate, so there was no preparation [for special measures].

If she was a normal candidate, based on the school rules, the principal would have asked for a separate examination” timetable, he said.

Opinion was mixed yesterday on whether Sam Ath should be allowed to re-sit the paper.

San Chey, a fellow with social accountability network ANSA-EAP, which monitors the education sector, said under the “special circumstances” a re-sit or automatic pass should be considered.

But Uk Chhayavy, director of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said a re-take could have damaging health implications.

“She will still have chance to be a candidate next year,” he said. “If this year she’s given a chance to retake the exam, it’s not right, because her health isn’t good.”

Last year, a large number of candidates were allowed to re-take the exam after the first round saw 74 per cent of students fail under anti-cheating reforms.

Having also flunked the test, teenage taekwondo sensation Sorn Seavmey was granted a free pass as a reward for bringing home gold in the Asian Games.

Sam Ath could not be reached yesterday. Her fate, along with those of five national footballers who missed the exam because they were competing in the ASEAN Football Federation Under-19 Youth Championship in Laos, will be decided after the marking period finishes later this week, according to Salin.

“Based on our policy, they must be failed, but the technical officials are reviewing their documents. We cannot say anything more right now.”

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story mistakenly said the Ministry of Women's Affairs had asked that the test-taker be allowed to re-sit the exam. In fact, they have not made that specific request.

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