Many Cambodian students take extra classes to prepare for the high school diploma or grade 12 exam in order to fill in the gaps in what they have learned attending public schools.

Imra Chantheany, a student at Bun Rany Hun Sen High School in Phsar Doeum Thkov commune in the capital’s Chamkarmon district said that typically there were many shortcomings to studying at public schools and this requires students to seek additional education, such as extra classes or tutoring, in order to pass the diploma exam.

“Me and my friends take extra classes. It costs about 50,000 to 60,000 riel per month for one subject. We take four subjects: Math, physics, chemistry and Khmer language,” she said.

She added that private school students did not need to take extra classes as often as public school students because the teachers in private schools are rarely absent.

A young student, who asked not to be named, said that public schools were less disciplined and the teachers explained subjects in less detail due to time constraints and crowded classroom conditions. He added that whatever he studied in regular classes was not as clear to him as it was in his extra classes.

“There are many exercises and it is easy to understand them in the extra classes. I study biology, math, chemistry and physics. I spend $15 to $20 per subject [monthly],” he said.

Kren Bunly, a teacher at Hun Sen Sereypheap High School, said that public schools taught all of the essential skills including general education, life skills, positive attitudes and good morals.

“There is no social status classification. They get the same education and care from all teachers. In general, public school students are well-educated and responsible,” he said.

Bunly, who teaches literature, also added that the teachers didn’t force students to take extra classes. He said most students just took any subject that they are weak in and not everyone was required to pay for them.

“My experience is that there is some understanding between teachers and students. Students who can afford to pay will pay for extra classes, but those who don’t have money don’t need to pay,” he said.

He confirmed that students who wished to get scholarship abroad would probably need to find extra study sources.

Bunly added that people who said that teachers didn’t teach in the regular classes and only in the extra classes might have had experience with one bad teacher but they couldn’t know what every teacher did and most teachers had a conscience and didn’t want to see their students remain ignorant or extort them for money.

“There are many private schools doing business selling extra classes to students. Is that corruption? The answer is no,” he said.

Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) president Ouk Chhayavy believes that teaching in some public schools was not providing students with a full education.

“Some grade 12 students still can’t read well. There is teaching and attention from some teachers, but no encouragement from the leadership and many students won’t study very hard,” she said.

She said that some students needed to find money for school as their family’s livelihood provided limited resources for them.

“Schools only take quantity for granted without thinking about quality. If we continue to have this extra class system then Cambodian youths will not be able to get a full education during the regular school day,” she said.

However, she said that teaching extra classes was not a form of corruption and that the practice wouldn’t be so prevalent if teacher salaries were raised.

The education ministry has repeatedly issued directives to school principals to prevent cases of students being forced to pay for extra classes during school hours or on holidays or in order to get a passing grade in their official class.

Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron has said in the past that “if a teacher is teaching extra classes, please be sure you are doing it well and respecting the teacher’s professional code of ethics.”