Public and private educational institutions across Cambodia reopened their doors on November 1 after being closed since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while Prime Minister Hun Sen made it clear that high school diploma exams would be taking place this year and students will not be given an automatic pass like in 2020.
In Phnom Penh, over 500 schools resumed classes in this second phase of reopening though some had already started again during the first phase back on September 15, according to Hem Sinareth, director of the Phnom Penh municipal Department of Education, Youth and Sport.
With classes resuming in all of the nation’s schools, Hun Sen said on November 1 that there would be no diploma exam exemptions this year like in 2020 when students in grade 12 automatically passed.
“Regarding exams, some people left some comments on my Facebook page but I didn’t reply. They requested that I grant permission for students to pass the exam automatically so that they would only have to take entrance exams at the university for their major.
“If you don’t have the required knowledge, why do you need to go to the next class level? Let me emphasise this now: No! There must be an exam,” Hun Sen said while announcing the closing of the vaccination campaign for people aged 6 and older and the launch of vaccination drive for children aged 5 at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.
He explained that last year’s students had nearly completed all of the coursework for their classes, but the exams could not take place due to the community outbreak of Covid-19. The government then decided to let all students pass their high school diploma exams without having any grades.
“This year we will have an organised exam. If you are not qualified to pass, you will have to study more to sit the exam. If you fail this year then you can take the exam again next year,” he said, adding that the credibility of the education sector will be at risk if students keep asking for an automatic pass on all of their exams.
Hun Sen noted that rescheduling the exam date was also possible but would depend on an evaluation of the situation by the education ministry.
“In my opinion, we should speed up our learning in class in the run-up to the exam. But it is not possible to let students [automatically] pass the exam every year because it will become a bad habit,” he said.
“I beg the understanding of all the grandchildren. This is for your life and future, not for anyone else or even me. I am getting older now. You are the future. If you are not qualified to study for a degree, then no [university] will accept you and then what will you do? So, please don’t post any more comments asking to automatically pass your exams. I will not respond,” he said.
Education ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha has said the high school diploma examination or “baccalaureate” will continue in accordance with the principles of the law, justice and transparency and with acceptable results.
“The high school diploma examination is on December 6. In the middle of November, the leadership of the education ministry will hold a meeting with relevant stakeholders to evaluate the situation and prepare for the exam,” he said.