The Ministry of Education plans to spend less than its allocated $3 million budget for the upcoming high school exit exam due to a decrease in this year’s exam registrants, an education official confirmed yesterday.
Ros Salin, a spokesman for the ministry, said it will only use $2.8 million of its earmarked budget.
In 2014, 91,373 students registered for the exam, but after the ministry’s crackdown on rampant cheating, which led the passing rate to initially plummet from 87 per cent in 2013 to a disastrous 25 per cent, only 88,488 candidates opted to take this year’s test.
A second exam last year mandated by Prime Minister Hun Sen saw just 18 per cent pass.
“This year, the students taking the exam in grade 12 are fewer, and for those who failed last year . . . only 5,000 enrolled in the exam again, while others might have found jobs or other choices for education,” he said.
In preparation for the August 24 exam, Salin said that the Education Ministry will begin preparing questionnaires on August 4 and will relay instructions to arbitrators and observers from August 15 to 20.
The Anti-Corruption Unit, which helped with the 2014 clampdown, plans to further tighten its rules in monitoring the irregularities in this year’s exam.
Speaking after the signing ceremony of an agreement with the Union of Youth Federation of Cambodia on Wednesday, ACU head Om Yentieng said that individuals who apply to be observers during the exam must prove that they have no conflict of interest to be eligible for the position – a practice that was not applied last year.
“For example, if I was an observer in Toul Tom Poung II High School, I would have to be clear that I have no brothers, sisters or relatives in the school.
And if I did, I would need to be transferred to observe in a different centre to avoid any conflict of interest,” he said.
So far, 3,000 post-secondary students have applied for the observer positions.
The number, Yentieng added, is lower than the 4,000 applicants they had at the same time last year for the previous exam.
In late April, Yentieng announced that the national exam will be stricter than the previous year, and those who commit infractions may be sentenced to imprisonment ranging from six months to two years.
Sorn Chey, a rights worker with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said he was optimistic about the anti-cheating measures the ministry plans to take.
However, he added that imprisonment might not be the answer.
“I think jail penalties might affect the reputation of the students,” Chey said.
“The ACU should be focusing and resolving other complaints and not taking too much time to focus on this.”