Amid strict reforms to guard against rampant cheating on the high-stakes national exam, education officials yesterday showed surprising leniency towards underperforming grade 12 students.
In a notice released yesterday, the Ministry of Education instructed upper secondary schools to hold re-examinations for grade 12 students who failed semester tests. The redo will allow students a second shot at qualifying for the national exam – the Kingdom’s sole factor in determining college eligibility.
The last-minute change of heart was prompted by a Kampong Thom high school, where a third of the grade 12 class failed to achieve the passing two-semester average of at least 25 out of 50.
Hun Sen Taing Kork High School’s 52 failing students petitioned the ministry this week to allow them to retake their exams on the grounds their teachers unfairly rewarded students who could pay for extra tutoring. After meetings with both the students and teachers, the ministry appears to have erred on the side of caution.
“In some cases, there could have been errors with the test or the scoring,” ministry spokesman Ros Salin said. “We want to know the real competencies of the students.”
But with a new testing model in place, the ministry may also be more predisposed than usual to discard initial results. Rather than issuing its standardised semester-end test, the government delegated the responsibility to teachers – a change some worried would lend too much subjectivity to an already bribery- and corruption-laden system.
“This is a year of piloting many reforms,” said San Chey, coordinator for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific. “We cannot expect new standards to work all at once.”
But at the school that triggered the second-chance tests, educators were significantly less understanding.
“We will follow the ministry’s order. But in doing this, the ministry itself shows no notion of reforming education for the better. This is a step backwards,” vice principal Sem Sim said.
The ministry, however, is allowing retesting only during the smallest of windows, requiring schools to submit updated lists of who has passed and who has not by July 16, leaving no time for students to cram.
“We weren’t paying attention to revising for our tests, because we were busy protesting not being registered for the national exams, so we still cannot pass,” Vann Dyna, 18, said.