High School Exam Failure Rate Skyrockets

Less than 40 percent of high school students passed their exams this year, due in part to a crackdown on cheating and bribery and a more difficult test, Ministry of Education officials announced last week.

Other education leaders warned, however, that cheating on exams and bribing one’s way to a university slot are still widespread, and they called on the ministry to take a more active role in curbing both trends.

Nationwide, 39.89 percent of high school students passed their final exam, compared to 66 percent last year, said Oum Hoeung, director of Phnom Penh’s municipal education department.

The lower scores were a result of exams that were a little tougher this year, said Lak Sam Ath, acting director of the youth and sport department of the Ministry of Education.

“The subjects were strict [and more difficult], with new programs and a high standard,” he said. “That’s why fewer students passed the exam.”

Lak Sam Ath said the lower re­sults would not adversely affect students, because those who failed would just attend high school another year. Students who fail the exam “do not always abandon their school,” he said.

Other education leaders, however, said they were concerned about the low scores and were further concerned that the scores didn’t really reflect the abilities of all the students.

That was due partly to the addition of two new subjects to the exam that weren’t made known until exam day, giving studious pupils no time to prepare, said Rong Chun, president of the Cam­bodian Independent Teach­ers’ Association.

He called on the ministry to strike the exam results.

“The Ministry of Education should not accept the exam’s result because the subjects were made known [only on exam day],” he said.

In some classrooms, students passed all the subjects, but in others only two or three passed, which shows that cheating still took place, he said. The ministry should “recognize the truth,” he said, that cheating still exists and that students still have to bribe their way into university. The ministry never takes action against top officials whose children cheat their way up, focusing instead on test proctors, he said.

Junior high exams begin today, and Rong Chun said he would be asking for NGOs to work closely with the Ministry of Education to reduce corruption or cheating.

Education Minister Tol Lah said last week that, while the tests may not have been perfect, officials continued to look for cases of cheating.

“Students, please don’t worry about corruption or cheating,” Tol Lah said.


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