Tuesday’s ninth grade mathematics exams were apparently just as breezy as Monday’s Khmer literature, geography and chemistry exams, students in Phnom Penh said.
Ministry of Education officials denied that exams were unusually easy, though they did acknowledge that this year’s goal is to have at least 80 percent of students pass the exams.
“The Ministry of Education and the Cambodian government want the number of students passing the exams to increase compared to last year because we want a large number of people to have higher levels of education,” said Chea Se, undersecretary of state for the ministry.
Students used to need to accumulate 250 marks in order to pass. This year, 230 or 240 marks are sufficient for a student to get into grade 10, he said.
“But the examinations themselves were neither more difficult or easier than in previous years—they were the same,” Chea Se said.
Tuesday’s mathematics exams had obviously been no ordeal for students who walked out of the exam center at Bak Touk high school, said military police officer Kim Channy, who was on duty at the school.
“I saw only one student cry and a thousand others smile,” he said.
Students told Kim Channy that the math exam had been a cinch, he said. Military police officer Kong Bun Neng of Prampi Makara district, also on duty at the school, said he had heard the same comment from his 15-year-old daughter.
This may be why no one threw answer sheets from the outside, Kim Channy said.
In addition, students claimed Monday that the cheating system in place—from exam monitors allowing the use of answer sheets in exam rooms, to middlemen guaranteeing success upon payment no matter what a student writes in the exam—made outside intervention unnecessary.
Marks accumulated by a student during the school year are added to final exam marks. In previous years, students would pay school principals $20 to $25 per semester to buy marks prior to the national exam session, said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association.
By reducing mark requirements this year, the ministry will make it even easier for a student to buy his way into grade 10 since a lower score is required during final exams, he said.
In Rong Chhun’s opinion, the ministry’s policy of graduating more students at reduced standards will not enable Cambodians to match skills with people from other countries in the region. “We need quality, not more people with low level education,” he said.
A total of 111,128 students were expected to take part in this year’s examination session, Chea Se said.
This has required setting up 4,548 exam rooms in 235 exam centers throughout the country, he said. Exams for grade 12 students will be held in mid-August.