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High-stakes Grade 12 exams kick off

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron (centre) unlocks a box containing test papers yesterday at Phnom Penh’s Sisowath High School during the commencement of the nationwide Grade-12 exams.
Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron (centre) unlocks a box containing test papers yesterday at Phnom Penh’s Sisowath High School during the commencement of the nationwide Grade-12 exams. Pha Lina

High-stakes Grade 12 exams kick off

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron applauded the vast majority of Grade-12 students for obeying the strict no-cheating rules he introduced three years ago as nationwide testing kicked off yesterday with relatively few hiccups.

The minister added that the reforms were not designed to punish but to develop students’ capacity so they could compete regionally.

“Our measures live up to the responsibility of education quality, justice and transparency for the students and our education staff, as well as the candidates’ parents,” he told reporters at Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh.

Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said that of the 93,752 students who registered to take the exam, 1,282 did not turn up on day one of the two-day examinations. Thirty-one disabled students sat the exam.

Despite the strict penalties, some students tried to cheat, Salin said: two in Kep managed to sneak cheat-sheets into the examination room but were caught by a proctor before the exam started; and one student in Pursat and another in Kampong Thom were caught with cheat-sheets and iPhones before the exam began.

Confirming the tight security measures, Wat Koh High School student Heng Vanchhaiy, 18, said during the lunch break that students were checked twice when they went into the classroom to make sure they were not smuggling any items.

“In the class, we cannot cheat,” he said. “It was very strict. If anybody had cheat-sheets, they would fail.”

This year is the third that the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has been involved in curbing what was once rampant cheating and corruption in the Grade-12 exams, which students have to pass if they want to enroll in university.

In 2014, the first year of the crackdown, the pass rate plummeted from 87 per cent to just over 25 per cent. Last year’s pass rate was markedly higher: 55.8 per cent. Given the high stakes, students yesterday were predictably nervous, with Yang Clement Nann saying he had a knot in his stomach.

“I’m nervous and scared,” said the 18-year-old Sisowath High School student. “I’m afraid I may not know some of the questions.”

The ministry’s Salin said that of the nine students who reported health problems during the exams, eight were able to continue after receiving treatment. And, he added, a proctor in Kampong Thom was involved in a traffic accident and was excused from monitoring the exam.

Hun Many, the prime minister’s son and president of the Union of Youths Federation of Cambodia, which signed an agreement with the ACU to send volunteers to monitor the exam, said: “Certainly, from year to year, the candidates have changed their behaviour to be better.”

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