As Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday joined those heaping praise on the running of this year’s reformed grade 12 national exam, a number of private universities said that they would continue to take in students who don’t make the grade.
In a speech at the Peace Palace yesterday morning, the premier paid his respects to authorities who ensured that anti-cheating measures were strictly enforced throughout the two-day exam.
“This year, the exam went smoothly – the reforms clearly responded to social needs and will influence other reforms,” he said.
Traditionally, the high school exit test has been rife with answer-selling, leaked tests and bribery. Sweeping reforms introduced last year aimed at ending the culture of cheating resulted in 74 per cent of candidates failing.
This year, the Ministry of Education has predicted a “surprising” turnaround in students’ fortunes, saying that preliminary checks of the papers by exam monitors have indicated a far higher pass rate.
But for those who fail to make the grade, a two-year associate degree, which doesn’t require a high school diploma, remains an option.
Chan Dara, deputy director of administration at the University of Cambodia (UC), said that after seeing a considerable drop in admissions following last year’s abysmal results, UC has decided to begin offering associate degrees.
“UC has just adopted this new policy to organise associate degrees this year, because there were so many students asking about it last year” after failing the national exam, he said.
In Vireakchey, a lecturer at Build Bright University, said the institution had offered associate degrees since it opened, but acknowledged that reforms to the national exam meant that the number of students opting for associate degrees last year was far greater than those enrolling in bachelor degrees.
“Even if they fail the exam, based on the Ministry of Education’s system, they can choose to study associate degrees or specific skills in the university anyway,” he said.
Officials at the Ministry of Education could not be reached yesterday.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said he didn’t believe that more institutions offering associate degrees to failed students would undermine efforts to stamp out corruption.
Associate degrees have always been a “passport to university”, but it “doesn’t necessarily compromise efforts to fight corruption”, he said.
Exam results will be released on September 15 for Phnom Penh and Kandal, and on September 16 for the rest of the country.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY