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Five-year-old girl skips straight to grade 4

By Bann Leaksmey, 5, reads to her class flanked by teacher Prak Soth. Last week, the Ministry of Education allowed Bann Leaksmey to enter grade 4. Photo supplied
By Bann Leaksmey, 5, reads to her class flanked by teacher Prak Soth. Last week, the Ministry of Education allowed Bann Leaksmey to enter grade 4. Photo supplied

Five-year-old girl skips straight to grade 4

A 5-year-old girl with a prodigy-like talent for math and “unique” memory will be allowed to skip three grades to attend grade 4, much to the delight of her parents, a teacher and nurse from Kampong Speu province.

By Bann Leaksmey still stands a full head shorter than most of her peers at Tanuon Primary School in Borseth district, but performs at the top of her class, according to school officials.

According to her father, high school physics teacher By Tith Savong, Bann Leaksmey was a precocious toddler who even at the age of 3 liked to listen to him read newspapers and physics books out loud. He and his wife, who decided to tutor their daughter at home, found that she had memorised the Khmer alphabet and was reading fluently after just a few weeks of learning.

By age 4, he said, they enrolled her for English classes at a private school near their home and she was learning multiplication tables and long division at home.

“We were both excited and concerned when seeing her unique memory,” he said.

Because Bann Leaksmey is technically too young to register for grade 1 – typically reserved for those 6 and up – Savong and his wife had to beg teacher Prak Soth to let her sit in on classes anyway.

Soth agreed – on the condition that the parents allow him to begin teaching her at the grade 4 level.

“When he said that I thought he had mental illness and was talking crazy,” Savong said. “I told him it is too high to learn and it is better that you should begin from grade 1.”

After some convincing, Savong and his wife relented, and the girl quickly distinguished herself by her grasp of languages and capacity to memorise, according to Soth.

“I was thrilled to hear her read the texts,” Soth said. “She read perfectly. I can say that she is very intelligent and smart, cleverer than my grandchildren, and even my children.”

In addition to reading and writing Khmer with ease, Bann Leaksmey also has a command of multiplication and long division and can do basic algebra, teachers said.

Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said officials tested Bann Leaksmey to “great results”, discovering that she reads at a grade 6 level, understands math at a grade 5 level, and can speak and write English at a grade 4 level.

On Thursday, Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron signed an official announcement allowing Bann Leaksmey to register as a grade 4 student.

Savong says he and his wife hope Bann Leaksmey can continue to excel and eventually become a scientist.

Last year, in a similar case, an 11-year-old student in Takeo was elevated by the Ministry of Education to grade 9, usually reserved for those 14 years and older.

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