There was chaos outside Preah Sisowath High School and Chaktomuk Junior High School during a break in exams Tuesday as students swarmed the entrance to receive answer sheets from waiting relatives as police officers stood by.
At Chaktomuk, one man claimed to be from the Ministry of Education and hawked answers to the morning’s chemistry exam. At 3,000 riel (about $0.75) each, he said, he had sold 20 copies to the students’ relatives.
Chhroeung Limsry, the ministry’s secondary education department director, said education authorities would not tolerate cheating.
“We have already told the students that if the proctors find any answer sheets in the examination rooms those students will receive zeros,” he said Tuesday.
Across Cambodia, more than 35,000 high school students took the exams this year, Chhroeung Limsry said. He acknowledged that many of them had received answer sheets from relatives.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the cheating during this year’s exam was worse than before. Relatives, he said, could easily hand answer sheets to their progeny through gates at schools across the country.
In previous years, relatives were known to throw rocks with answer sheets attached through school windows.
“Because of the national elections, top education officials are busy and haven’t paid much attention to the examination process,” Rong Chhun said.
For students who choose not to fill in the exams from an answer sheet, he said, education officials have set the price for passing exams between $500 and $900.
He appealed to donor nations to pressure Cambodia to prevent corruption among education officials.
“Since the beginning of the examination, there have been a lot of irregularities,” he said. “The Ministry of Education should take measures to eliminate the corruption in order to upgrade education” in Cambodia.
Chhroeung Limsry denied that education officials would take bribes from students. Even if “the students offer those officers $10,000, they still wouldn’t pass those students,” he said.
One high school student who declined to give her name said her mother handed her an answer sheet during the break.
“The chemistry answer sheet is the same as the chemistry subject questions,” she said. “I copied all of it.” She continued: “It is easy. I just walk to get the answers. We don’t need to ask someone to throw them to us.”
Another student who attends Boeng Trabek High School said proctors in the exams could be paid 3,000 riel to ignore cribbing students during the chemistry exam and 5,000 riel (about $1.25) during the morning’s literature exam, when they had to bring in their own materials since answer sheets weren’t available.
In her literature section, which had 25 students, she said her proctor “asked me to collect 5,000 riel from each student.” She said if the student couldn’t pay the proctor confiscated the answer sheets.
“I brought in the answer sheet,” she said. “The police officers at the gate didn’t check me, and the proctors didn’t care when I checked it,” she said.
She also claimed to have answer sheets to the afternoon’s biology and geology exams.