More than 200 first-year medical students who failed to advance to their second year of studies demonstrated for the second day outside the University of Health Sciences in Phnom Penh, and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Takhmau town on Friday.
The first-year medical students want the university to release their exam answer sheets publicly, as they believe they passed their exams, and also to increase the number of students that are allowed each year to move on to second year studies. The students who failed are automatically dropped from their course of study, the protesters said, adding that they should at least be allowed to repeat their first year studies and re-sit the exam again next year.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said on Friday that more than 2,000 students sat the first year medical students’ exam and only 850 students passed.
“I don’t believe I failed the exam because I did almost all of the questions, and after the exam I went to check the answers, and I see my answers were right,” said protesting student Mo Ly.
“I know how to be a doctor. The lives of others rely on me, and I don’t want to be a doctor with no real skill,” said Ms Ly as she protested outside the university on Thursday.
The exams, she added, were not fair or transparent because answer sheets, she alleged, were leaked and the announcement of students passing was delayed by three hours, which was suspicious.
University officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
Last year, students from the university also protested after a new National Exam Committee ruling stated that only students who passed all four components—anatomy, biology, embryology and chemistry—of the first year medicine foundation course could move on to the second year. After the exam, only 369 students of more than 1,481 who sat the first year tests were found eligible to enter second year under the new ruling.
The failure rate prompted hundreds of students to protest at the university in December, saying that the NEC had initially stated, prior to the new exam rules, that 1,180 students would be allowed to move into second year. Following the intervention of the prime minister, the original 1,180 were allowed to move to second year.
Protesting student Siv Novel said on Friday that the students delivered an appeal with 244 thumbprints to the prime minister’s house on Friday asking him to intervene on their behalf. Mr Novel said an official from the prime minister’s cabinet took their request letter and promised they would receive a response on Monday.
The students, some of whom carried small posters of Mr Hun Sen at Friday’s protest, will not protest over the weekend but will return to the university to hear the decision on Monday.
“We hope that Samdech Hun Sen will help us,” Mr Novel said.
Seng Lim Noeu, secretary of state for the Council of Ministers and director of the National Exam Committee, could not be reached for comment on Thursday or Friday.
Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng said on Thursday that more medical students were allowed move from first year into second year in 2008, but this year a smaller number was allowed advance.
“We cannot help them pass as previous [years],” the minister said of students who have failed this year.
“We are building real human resources,” he added.