Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday invited the 11 students who achieved an A grade in last month’s national exam to the Peace Palace, where he promised each of them thousands of dollars worth of gifts.
The six boys and five girls, who were the only students among almost 90,000 candidates to score 85 percent or better, are each set to receive a new laptop, motorbike, iPad, $1,000 cash and an annual scholarship of $1,500 for the duration of their tertiary studies.
A photograph circulating on social media shows the students, dressed in their school uniforms, sitting opposite officials at a boardroom table with Mr. Hun Sen at the head. Unusually for a meeting with the prime minister, cans of Coca-Cola were served along with the customary bottles of water. Speaking by telephone after the meeting, which was closed to the media, Neang Bora, 19, a graduate of Bak Touk High School in Phnom Penh, said Mr. Hun Sen had encouraged the group to go on to serve “society and the nation.”
“Samdech Hun Sen educated us to respect laws, especially traffic laws, and he encouraged us to keep studying hard at the next level,” he said.
With only 25.7 percent of students passing the exam, Mr. Bora, who plans to study architecture, encouraged parents to track the study performance of their children in order to improve results.
“I have observed and seen that most students use time uselessly like going for a walk too much, drinking beer, using drugs, being materialistic and playing Facebook for the wrong purposes; they don’t like studying,” he said.
Et Sreypov, an 18-year-old graduate of Samdech Chuon Nat High School in Kampong Cham province, said she was in favor of strict exams because it rewarded hard workers.
“I got the best result because I studied so hard, spending about ten hours a day studying, and listening carefully to teachers’ explanations and raising questions when I had questions,” she said.
However, the daughter of farmers, who plans to become a doctor, said she also supports next month’s second-chance exam for those who failed as they have received their “wake-up call.”