After the rate of students passing the high school exit exams plummeted last year, experts are encouraging the wider dissemination of the Kingdoms’ Cambodia Quality Framework, which they say will inform students — including those who failed the test — of other education pathways available to them apart from the typical academic bachelor degree.
Last year, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) cracked down on the rampant cheating during the exam and saw the pass rate plunge from 87 per cent in 2013 to a disastrous 25 per cent, while the retake test saw 18 per cent of passing grades.
The results have led students with failing marks to seek other education options like applying to “lower-level” associate degrees, which don’t require passing grades on the national exam.
By the end of last school year, more than 15,000 grade 12 students registered for associate programs — the “highest ever that the Education Ministry has seen,” according to ministry spokesman Ros Salin.
But apart from exposing widespread academic dishonesty, the exam’s outcome also brought to light gaps in the education system, specifically, a seeming lack of alternatives to the popular academic bachelor degree, which requires a passing mark.
“Students have different learning styles and statuses at home, so it’s vital that the education sector caters to that and that they know that there’s more than just a single pathway to go,” NGO Education Partnership executive director Chin Chanveasna said
A solution to this, education officials suggested, is by further publicizing the current Cambodia Qualification Framework (CQF) developed by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT), MoEYS and other partners in 2013.
The CQF is a document that outlines quality assurance guidelines for learning programs and flexibilities in the education system that will allow students to transfer from one program to another as long as they fulfill certain requirements and qualify for certification by finishing a certain number of hours, in-class or working in the field.
Through it, individuals who aren’t able to go to school full-time could vie for academic or technical certification through on-the-job training or attending a certain amount of workshops.
“Our main goal for the CQF is to improve the quality of education through following training and quality assurance guidelines and also granting students the means to receive academic and technical education qualifications despite not following the normal practice of being in school the whole time,” said MoLVT Department of Standards deputy director Khim Yorm.
The government has started implementing it in the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year but just for technical and vocational education training programs in high priority job sectors like civil construction, automotive mechanics and information and communication technology. They plan to expand enforcement next year.
But despite the presence of the CQF, there remains to be one glaring problem: not many students, and sometimes even educators, are aware of its existence.
“It sets a good benchmark as it provides technical guidance on all education levels, but the government needs to do more to promote these learning options,” UNESCO education unit program officer Nimol Soth said. “There are services provided, but students are simply not aware of them or don’t know if they are qualified.”
According to Yorm, the government recognizes the “need to increase more public awareness about the CQF” and plans to start outreach to schools soon.
“It will take at least 20 years to reach full implementation, but now that we have started, we need all the support from the political, technical and financial levels and all the stakeholders who will benefit from the CQF’s successful implementation,” he said.