As the annual high school completion exams wrapped up this week, reports of cheating were markedly down from previous years, a drop attributed to last year’s enactment of strict anti-cheating measures.
Still, some dared to test the hightened security measures, which included airport-like body searches and a boosted number of exam watchers.
One grade 12 student who took her exam at Phnom Penh Thmey High School and declined to give her name told Post Weekend that while teachers and Anti-Corruption Unit volunteer observers maintained a heavy presence during exam hours, she still witnessed students attempting to cheat. Some did so in outlandish ways.
“I saw people who had etched basic mathematical rules into their plastic rulers. Some of them had written [answers] on a small piece of paper that they concealed inside their pen, belt or shirt collar.”
The student, who herself had hidden an answer sheet in her hair bun, said that while the teachers and the ACU volunteers, themselves only 18 or 19 years old, made a formidable force against would-be cheaters, she observed disunity within the anti-cheating ranks.
“If a student moved – to pick up a dropped pencil or something – the ACU volunteer always called out their table number.
Sometimes the teachers in the class got angry with the ACU volunteers because they were shouting so much at the students,” she said, adding that while most test-takers in her room kept silent and still throughout the exam, there was one trouble-maker who was caught red-handed extracting a hidden cheat sheet.
The teacher promptly shouted out her table number, marched over and confiscated the forbidden paper from the guilty party. The student was, however, allowed to continue taking the test.
The unnamed student that had concealed her cheat sheet in her hair bun said that her own answer sheet was ultimately of no use to her.
“Even though I brought an answer sheet with me, I could not use it to cheat. It didn’t have the right information on it, so I took the test with only my own knowledge,” she said.
Ban Som Chenda, a Khmer literature teacher at Sisowath High School and volunteer observer at Tuol Svay Prey High School, said that, despite her best efforts, she was unable to locate any cheaters.
As a reward for their good behaviour, the volunteer observer allowed her students to check answers with each other during the mathematics section.
“I think they knew their stuff and were ready to come take the exam. They didn’t cheat as in previous years,” Chenda said.
“When the students asked each other about their [respective] results, I allowed them to do so,” she said.