More than 40 percent of high school students passed their baccalaureate exam this year, about the same as 2002, an education official said Sunday.
Chhroeung Limsry, director of the secondary education department at the Ministry of Education, said 40.56 percent of the 35,000 takers passed the exam, up from 39.89 percent last year.
Phnom Penh had the highest pass rate of any province or municipality with 77.25 percent passing, he added.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, said Phnom Penh had the highest pass rate because of rampant cheating. “They passed the exams by using copied answer sheets,” he said.
While Chhroeung Limsry acknowledged that there was cheating, he said 2003 was better than previous years. More students in the capital passed their exam than in the provinces because it is “the country’s center of schools and business,” he said. Saying otherwise “looks down on students who succeeded because of their own capacities.”
Ian Kidd, chief technical adviser for the Cambodia-Australia National Examinations Project, a group concluding a five-year project to standardize national exams in Cambodia, said students’ abilities should not be judged by changes in the annual pass rate “since the difficulty of the exams will always vary.”
A more pressing problem than cheating, he said Sunday, is a lack of a standardized grading system. That means a student cannot judge his grasp of the material from his grade. Standardization would also enable students to compare their grades, he said.
The Cambodia-Australia National Examinations Project brought in subject specialists to devise a level of comprehension to match each grade. While the ministry “took the system into account,” they have not adopted it, he said. “Traditionally, standards are set by senior officials.”
Kidd added that while the project had no target passing rate,
40 percent was “very low” and
50 percent to 70 percent would be better because “you want them to succeed.”
Of the 14,360 students who passed the exam, two young women received As and 12,018 students received Es, the lowest passing grade, Chhroeung Limsry said.