H IGH school examinations in Cambodia can be a family affair - the students sit
the exam, their relatives help them to cheat.
If the example of one Phnom
Penh school is anything to go by, parents are among the biggest culprits helping
students to cheat the examination system.
"I want to help my son," said a
father outside a window of Toul Tompong High School, where his son was being
Poring over a textbook, the man searched for the answers
to questions on the exam paper passed to him by his son through the window. When
ready, the answers would go back the same way.
"I don't want my son to
repeat the [year's] class again. You know, if he repeats, we will lose time and
money for his school materials.
"I think maybe this will help him
anyway," the man laughed.
"This is not only me, others do the same. And
some of the students have photocopied papers with the answers on
The father was one of about 20 people - parents, brothers, sisters
or friends of students inside - gathered outside the school on July 7, the last
day of national end-of-year exams.
They made no attempt to hide what they
were doing - except when they spied a Post photographer - and nor did they need
There were 15 policemen stationed on St. 155 next to the school,
charged with stopping such cheating, but they were less than
They did a good job of stopping traffic and ensuring no-one
could drive into the school, but people were still free to wander into the
Ridiculously, some of the police were sitting with a group of
people busily copying answers from textbooks.
"I don't want to stop
them," said one police officer.
Pondering over an examination paper, he
suggested it was too hard anyway: "I don't think students will be able to get
all these answers."
Stopping cheating, he said, was the job of the
examiners. If they wanted to prevent outside contact with the students, they
should do so.
One student, Sok Chenda, said that relatives or friends
also wrapped notes around stones which were then tossed to
Sometimes, a bare stone would come flying into an examination
room - having lost the piece of paper wrapped around it.
Inside the room,
students found it easy to look at each other's answers but were forbidden to
talk to each other, Chenda said.
Heng Bun Tha, in charge of supervising
the July 7 exam sat by 1,530 students, said he had asked teachers to ensure
there was no cheating.
"I told all the examiners to close the windows and
take any prepared answers from the students, or papers from
"This is fair enough," he said.
When a Post reporter
returned to his car parked outside the school, he found four or five people
using it as a table while copying answers from a textbook.
cheating has dogged the Cambodian education system for years, but previously the
biggest concern has been teachers selling exam answers to
Minister of Education Tol Lah, a strong opponent of corruption,
said he had instructed teachers to ensure exams were honest and
"You can imagine what happens if a mother gives $50 to her children
to buy answers. If the children learn how to practice corruption, what do you
think they will do when they grow up?" he said.
While corruption and
cheating had not been 100 per cent eliminated, Tol Lah believed there was far
less than a few years ago.
A teacher at Takmao High School told the Post
that the sale of exam answers had been stopped but teachers were now turning to
charging unofficial school fees from students.
She said students were
asked for 200 or 300 riels per day. Some teachers were also offering private
classes at a higher cost, telling their students they would fail if they did not
"We understand that this is not good, but we have to do it
for our survival. We cannot live...on our salary of 50,000 or 60,000 riels [a
month]," the teacher said.
A student at another school said he was asked
for 200 riels a day for "school materials".
Tol Lah said he was trying to
reduce such behavior but "it is not easy to solve this kind of problem because
we cannot improve teachers' salaries."