Minister Says National Exam Costs Are Fair

With the Grade 12 national high school exam about two weeks away, a group of five NGOs sent a letter to the Ministry of Education on Monday asking the government to prevent guesthouses from hiking their prices for students who have to stay overnight in provincial capitals to take the test.

In response to reports from students and teachers of drastic price hikes at guesthouses and hotels during the national high school examination last year, the five NGOs asked the ministry to either prevent hotel owners from raising prices or allocate money for students who must travel to sit for the two-day exam.

“The overnight price hikes during the days of the high school national exam have caused serious side effects and cost to the candidates, many of whom are students from poor families in rural areas,” the letter said.

As part of an effort to stamp out cheating and eliminate bribery at national exams, the Ministry of Education relocated most test centers to provincial capitals last year.

Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, one of the groups that signed the letter, estimated that the average price of a room at a guesthouse doubled from $5 to $10 during last year’s exam period.

San Chey, a coordinator at the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, which also signed the letter, estimated that around 70 percent of all students taking the exam would need to find overnight accommodation.

“We should make [students] just focus on the exam, not the money they would spend during that time,” he said.

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said that the ministry simply does not have the funding to support students who must travel.

“Compared to the cost they spent on passing the exam in the past, I think the cost is still lower,” Mr. Chuon Naron said.

“In the past, students had to spend money to buy cheat sheets. I think they have justice at least, more than in the past.”

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