High School Students Say Exam Cheating Rife

High school students began taking their examinations on Monday, with many students in Phnom Penh reporting they had been able to cheat by bribing exam supervisors to take answer sheets into the classroom.

“I paid $5 to the proctors so they would allow me to look at answer sheets,” said Sang, who took the exam at Boeng Trabek High School and would only give her first name in order to hide her identity. “The sheet had the right answers, but the numbering was wrong. All I had to do was figure out which answer fitted where,” she added.

Another student taking the test at the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said teachers who were given bribes allowed students to cheat provided the students were not too obvious in their efforts.

“I paid my teachers $5 to let me use answer sheets. They also allowed other students to use their phones to cheat,” said the student, who was also taking exams at Boeng Trabek High School. “But we had to keep the sheets in our wallets so they wouldn’t be visible to the police and proctors.”

Ran, 18, who gave only his first name and was taking exams at Hun Sen Bun Rany Phsar Doeum Thkov High School, said efforts by authorities at the school to deter cheating were futile. “There were police and teachers at the front gate, checking to see whether anyone had answer keys or phones on them. Teachers also checked us while we were in the rooms,” he said.

But some proctors had allowed cheating, including warning students when exam officials were approaching the classroom, he added.

“I had purchased the answer sheets with my friends the evening before the exam,” he added. “The [answers to the] two subjects I am taking, chemistry and biology, have been completely leaked.”

It is not uncommon for photocopy shops near schools to sell exam papers to students ahead of tests. Almost 108,000 students in grade 12 are taking the National High School Exam this week. Passing is necessary to graduate high school and results are also a factor in admissions to university.

Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Im Sethy denied Monday that any answers had been released. “We have clear measures in place to provide a fair test-taking environment for all students. No exam-related documents have been leaked,” he said.

Kem Ley, a socioeconomic researcher with Advanced Research Consultant Team, a consulting firm, said that an analysis of the examination process he helped conduct last year found that the problem of cheating was both widespread and student-driven. “66.9 percent of students reported that they had given money to proctors,” he said. “In 92 percent of those cases, the bribes were initiated by the exam candidates themselves.” In the same study, less than one-fifth of surveyed students characterized the National High School Exam as “unfair.”

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