Top-scoring candidates from this year’s grade 12 national exam will be given free passes to train as pre-school and primary teachers in an effort to improve the quality of the education system.
Prime Minister Hun Sen approved a request from Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron to allow those who scored grades of A, B and C in the high-stakes test and had submitted applications to become nursery or primary school teachers to automatically gain entrance to training courses.
“With the intention of guaranteeing a good quality of teacher training, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports requests . . . that the A, B and C candidates who had submitted applications pass [the entrance test] automatically,” the ministry said in a letter to the premier dated Tuesday.
According to the letter, 1,242 B and C candidates have submitted applications to become primary school teachers, while five have applied to become nursery teachers. The letter does not list any A-grade candidates who have applied.
According to a Teacher Policy Action Plan released by the Ministry of Education in January, “more than 80 per cent” of people signing up for teacher training courses carry grades of only D or E from the national exam.
“Teaching is simply not seen as a viable and rewarding career option for the best students,” it says.
Ouk Chhayavy, acting director of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, said that she disagreed with the decision to allow high academic achievers to automatically become teachers without passing the test.
“Having been a teacher for 20 years, I think that it is really not good,” she said, explaining that “teachers need to have talent for teaching students” as well as academic prowess.
She added that even the most intelligent candidates would benefit from taking the test by knowing that they had earned their place rather than getting a free pass because of their results in the national exam.
Chuon Naron and ministry spokesman Ros Salin could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Soung Sophy, head of Pursat province’s Education Department, defended the government’s decision.
“Even though the B and C candidates pass automatically without taking the exam, they have to train for two years before they become teachers,” he said.
“The department is currently preparing to notify candidates who apply for these exams that B and C candidates will pass automatically but other candidates like those who scored Ds and Es will need to take the exam soon.”
One of the candidates set to receive a place on a teacher training program is 17-year-old Chea Borith, a C-grade candidate from Kampot province who dreams of becoming a primary school teacher.
“I want to teach a new generation to be good students,” she said. “If I pass, I will learn this skill in only one or two years and then I can be a teacher”.