A senior Education Ministry official on Thursday said that jailing students caught cheating, as threatened by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) on Tuesday, was the wrong approach to cleaning up the national high school exam.
Instead, he called for a budget increase to offset losses that teachers will incur if they cease taking bribes.
“Most students are under 18, so it is not appropriate to send them to jail, but this message [from the ACU] may convince some to stop the cheating,” said Ros Salin, cabinet chief at the Ministry of Education.
ACU Chairman Om Yentieng this week told 150 teachers engaged in anti-corruption training that the courts would deal with national exam cheats. Mr. Salin said that less severe measures were in order.
“We have our own new monitoring systems in place with three different teams from the ministry to watch closely over the exam process, the correction process and the publishing of results,” he said.
As a three-day training session for teachers on stemming corruption—which is rife in high schools, particularly during exam time—came to a close Thursday, Mr. Salin said that the best way to ensure legitimate national exams was to take away the need for teachers to take bribes.
“This is the challenge we face,” Mr. Salin said. “We are running on a budget of $333 million a year and already 75 percent of this is spent on salaries.”
“We need more money in our budget in order to raise the standard of education,” Mr. Salin said.
At the close of the ACU training course Thursday, a 31-year-old teacher from Ratanakiri province who gave his name as Mr. Thea said that while he did not make a sufficient wage, the fear of jail would stop him from taking bribes.
“Nowadays, the salary is too small. I will do my best to follow the ACU, and so will some teachers who are afraid to go to jail, but I know many teachers will continue to take bribes,” he said.