In response to a request from the Education Ministry, the Ministry of Interior has issued instructions for police to “secure the atmosphere” around the country’s schools during the junior high school exams next week and high school exams at the end of this month, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Thursday.
Approximately 156,430 junior high students will take their exams at 347 different centers, according to Koeur Naileang, the secretary-general of the Education Ministry.
Cheating during the national exams has been a widespread problem over the years and a strong police presence around schools at exam time has been the norm. Calling attention to the problem last month, Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, sent a letter to the Education Ministry to “take action to stop the bribery and cheating during the national exams.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said Thursday that police officers will once again surround examination centers but that police will not punish student cheaters.
“That is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education,” said Mr Sopheak. The police will be there to secure the premises but it is the teachers’ responsibility to watch for cheating in the exam rooms, he added.
Hak Seng Ly, undersecretary of state at the Education Ministry, said Friday that there is “still a small problem” regarding cheating. “We have been trying to stop this,” Mr Ly said.
He added that students may be kicked out of the exam if caught cheating, and teachers found aiding a student may be fired depending on the degree of their involvement.
Try Rich, a teacher at Bun Rany Hun Sen Wat Phnom high school in Phnom Penh, said that her school is very strict with the exam process. The teachers who proctor the exams always search the students at both the school-gate and the entrance to the exam rooms, but some still manage to sneak notes inside, she said.
Ms Rich said a teacher would be “shamed” if caught aiding a student in cheating, because all the other teachers would find out. Teachers who are caught will be suspended from proctoring exams for two years, according to the school’s regulation.
But even if students receive no help from their teachers, many appear willing to cheat to get a high score.
Sixteen-year-old Kanhchana, who will be taking her junior high exams July 6 and 7, said that if the teachers do not accept money from the students, “it will be a tough time for us during the exam.” The Bun Rany Hun Sen Wat Phnom student said she has attended tutoring classes in order to pass, but that having her own notes during the exams might increase her chances of success.
Fellow student Nhan Theary, 17, echoed that sentiment, saying that approximately 70 percent of students bring their own notes to cheat with during the exams. “We can do everything by ourselves, but the result might not be that good,” she said.
However, not all students feel the same way. Chap Somsothyvuth, 14, from Boeung Keng Kang high school said that he and his friends study hard beforehand and have confidence that they can take the exams without having to cheat. According to Somsothyvuth, students cheat because there is a lot of pressure to succeed because the exams determine whether or not they will receive their certificate to move on to the next grade level.
“I have never thought about cheating because I have to try,” said Somsothyvuth. “I just care about myself, even if others cheat.”