Despite the apparent success of this year’s Grade 12 exams, a troubling incident may have unfolded shortly after their conclusion. A visually impaired candidate faced adversity as a teacher’s remarks stirred controversy, sparking discussions about the challenges encountered by students with disabilities during the examination process.

Shared on social media on November 8, the student’s comment lacked specific details about the exam centre’s location but highlighted the dissatisfaction of a candidate with impaired vision struggling to see questions on the board.

ACE Confessions, a submission platform for anonymous Facebook and confessions pages, disclosed the difficulties encountered by a visually impaired student. Despite prior discussions with invigilators, the promised exam paper was not provided, and instead, arrangements had him seated him at a desk near the board.

As per ACE Confessions, the candidate communicated to the invigilator that despite being moved closer to the board, clear visibility remained a challenge. Nevertheless, the invigilator persisted in advising the candidate to make an effort to improve visibility.

“I don’t know what to do with you then! Just sit where you are – there is no need to take the exam now,” the teacher responsible for the classroom allegedly stated.

These comments had a profound emotional impact on the candidate.

“I acknowledge the invigilator’s effort to find a solution, but he shouldn’t have conveyed it in that manner. Does he assume I want to face such a problem?” expressed the candidate concerning the incident.

The post on the social media platform added that faced with limited alternatives, the candidate opted to move to the front of the room, despite the suboptimal choice. Even though he remained unable to see the exam questions on the board, an invigilator supported him by reading the questions aloud until he finished the exam.

“I would like to express gratitude to the invigilator who stood by my side and read the questions aloud, enabling me to take the exam. Regardless of the duration he had to stand, he ensured I could participate in the exam,” the student stated.

Plea for compassion

The unidentified candidate appealed to teachers, invigilators, exam centre directors, and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to show empathy towards students with visual impairments, emphasizing that they have not chosen to be born with poor eyesight.

Following the complaint, a student with impaired vision shared her personal experience of taking the recent exam at Yukunthor High School. The candidate, who requested anonymity, told The Post that the teachers at the exam centre provided assistance by relocating her desk to a spot near the blackboard, ensuring her exam proceeded smoothly.

“At each exam centre, teachers demonstrated great care for the candidates, addressing the concerns of numerous students facing difficulties. Discussions have taken place regarding the arrangement of designated seating areas for students with impaired eyesight, enabling them to be close to the board for easy reading and to avoid any time delays during exams,” she told The Post.

The young woman appreciated the invigilators and teachers who consistently support students facing similar challenges. However, she expressed discontent upon learning that certain teachers used inappropriate language, affecting students with eyesight problems.

“It saddens me to hear such remarks because nobody chooses to be born with such difficulties. Instead, we should work together to find better solutions,” she said.

Ministry of Education spokesperson Kim Sethany cast doubt on the claim’s credibility. Responding to the discontent expressed on social media, she stated she was conducting further research on the matter.

She also added that in the 2023 Grade 12 exam, there were fewer than 10 students with disabilities.

“In terms of students with severe disabilities, the number was fewer than 10. However, concerning visual impairments, there were a significant number of cases. Yet, we do not disclose the exact number; we only report on serious eye problems,” she mentioned.

Sethany affirmed that invigilators at examination centres consistently assist students with visual impairments, ensuring they are seated at the front desks near the blackboard to improve their ability to see the exam questions. In instances where students have severe visual impairments and need the exam paper placed closer to their eyes, invigilators and the heads of the examination centres make additional accommodations to address specific needs.

At Hun Sen Oddar Meanchey High School in Oddar Meanchey province, a candidate with severe visual impairment received the exam paper from both invigilators and members of the Anti-Corruption Unit present at the examination centre. Similarly, Chivoan Chanro, a candidate from Kampong Chhnang province, dealing with severe eyesight problems, diligently completed his exam worksheet, as per the official social media account of the education ministry.

The complaint by a visually impaired student, which followed the recent Grade 12 examinations, was shared on social media platform. ACE Confessions

Respectful communication

Chhort Bunthong, head of the Culture, Education and Tourist Relations department at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), emphasised that the use of inappropriate language significantly affects the emotional wellbeing, honour and dignity of students, especially those with disabilities or impairments. This is likely due to a lack of empathy and mutual understanding.

He suggested that in such cases, staff and teachers should receive prior information regarding candidates with visual impairments. This way, they can make necessary preparations to support and assist both invigilators and candidates during the examination process.

Bunthong added that while insensitive words and behaviours may be attributed to a limited number of individuals, institutions and organisations should ensure that such occurrences are prevented from happening.

“I believe invigilators and stakeholders in the examination process should use language that is mutually respectful to candidates, invigilators and the examination committee. We should refrain from acting solely on emotions. Generally, the organising committee, along with the ministry, adheres to guiding principles. However, this case could have arisen due to the limited actions of individuals,” he said.