The number of students who passed Cambodia’s high-stakes grade-12 exam saw only a slight increase this year, signalling that scores may be plateauing after an overhaul to weed out rampant cheating in 2014.
A total of 63.84 percent of the 99,728 students who sat this year’s exam scored above the minimum passing mark of 47 percent, up from 62 percent of students last year, according to a statement from the Ministry of Education released yesterday. The pass rate was a woefully low 27.5 percent in 2014 when the cheating crackdown began.
Of those who passed this year, 424 students aced the exam, up from 405 last year, and just 11 in 2014.
The excitement of those waiting to see their grades – and the anxiety of those less confident in their performance – was palpable at Preah Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh yesterday.
While some clasped hands and chattered away in small clusters, others sat with their heads in their hands awaiting their results, which factor heavily into university admissions.
Among the students was 17-year-old Ban Chanvutha, who jumped and squealed with joy when she realised she had received an A.
“I never thought I could get a result like this. I am very excited. I studied hard with my friends before the exam,” she said, adding she hoped to go on and study graphic design at university.
A total of 2,464 students received a B grade, while 46,657 students scraped by with an E.
Khan Chanpisey, 16, said she hoped to study management after receiving a B. “This is the best result for me – I am very happy. I tried to study hard, and studied one full year before the exam,” she said.
But not everyone shared in the jubilation. Ya Ranath, 19, said he may give up on studying after he failed the exam.
“I am very sorry I failed. I tried to study, too – why did I fail like this?” he said.
Twenty-eight students were failed automatically and received a score of zero after they were caught attempting to cheat, according to an Education Ministry statement yesterday, with offences ranging from sneaking in documents, calculators and cellphones, to going so far as hiring someone else to take the exam in their place.
The ministry also found 28 cases in which academic staff had made mistakes during the exam process, with some being punished by having their names erased from the promotion list for two years or being suspended from ever overseeing exams again.
Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin did not respond to requests for comment.
San Chey, executive director at the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the increase in students passing the exam was “a sign of progress”, adding he had detected an improvement in students’ attitudes since the exam reform in 2014.
“They feel much more trust in themselves – they never expect to pass the exam with bribery,” he said.