Minister of Education Tol Lah on Tuesday opened the headquarters for the ministry’s war against cheating in school exams.
The Examinations Office includes a high-security storehouse, where exam papers can be printed and stored in locked metal boxes, ready for shipment to test centers, said Ken Gannicott, head of the Cambodia-Australia National Examinations Project.
It also houses a computer lab to handle a new barcode system for registering test-takers. The barcode minimizes the chances of cheaters trying to change test results, Gannicott said. And since examiners won’t know whose paper they are marking, they will assess student’s work more objectively.
The system also means test information can be fed directly into a computer, allowing the ministry to quickly develop a sophisticated database of exam results.
The $65,000 building is part of an ongoing Australian-funded project to make Cambodian exams fair and uniform.
In the past, Cambodian schools were notorious for widespread cheating.
Exam papers were stolen and sold to students, and exam monitors were bribed. Parents paid off police to pass notes to their children through windows. Others threw answers tied to rocks into exam rooms, sometimes injuring students and teachers.
In exams earlier this year, the ministry stepped up security, setting up police cordons to keep crowds well away from exam centers and introducing stiffer penalties for exam monitors caught taking bribes. Parents bringing their children snacks or water during break times were also well monitored.
“It’s fair to report that the ministry is making genuine progress,” Gannicott said Tuesday.
But more still needs to be done to tighten security inside exam rooms and to eliminate the temptations for teachers to accept bribes, he said.
“If Cambodia wants a successful school system and a successful examination system, it has to be seen to be fair and honest,” Gannicott said. “But Rome wasn’t built in a day.”