State-run schools in Phnom Penh will postpone first semester exams to avoid angering parents who may be offended that the tests fall during the Feb 11-14 Chinese New Year celebration, education officials said Tuesday.
“I already told the schools to move the exam out of the three Chinese [New Year] days so that it will not affect [the students’] rights and beliefs as stipulated in the Constitution,” said Um Hoeung, director of the Phnom Penh Education Department.
Sixty percent of public school students have at least some Chinese ancestry, said Sing Sithon, deputy director of Tuol Tom Pong school.
The remaining students claim Chinese blood during the holiday to take a break from school, he said. “Khmers who act like Chinese are about 40 percent of the population. And these students are the Chinese extremists because they always prolong their rest days from three days to one week,” he said.
The Ministry of Education originally set exam dates from Feb 4 to Feb 16 for grades 7, 8, 10 and 11. The Municipal Education Department canceled tests that had been planned for Feb 11 through Feb 13 and moved them to Feb 14 to Feb 16. Grade 9 students will take exams as scheduled from Feb 21 to Feb 23; grade 12 exams will administered from Feb 28 to March 2.
The most significant day in the three-day celebration is Feb 11, said Ly Kan, administrative chief of the Cambodian-Chinese Association in Cambodia.
“It is the day of offering to the gods,” he said “The following days are for the families to enjoy themselves somewhere.”
The Chinese New Year celebration begins at midnight Feb 11, when the Chinese believe the horse gods arrive to mark the start of the Year of the Horse.
“I think students will stop going to school days before the event and prolong their rest days through the week,” Um Hoeung said.
Batouk High School director Sok Sovann said that even though the Chinese New Year is not a national holiday, his school also suffers severe absenteeism during those days. A Phnom Penh physics teacher said his class size usually falls from 60 students to 10 during the holiday. Schools will remain open during the holiday, school officials said.
School directors usually complain that students prolong their holiday break during the New Year celebrations. Teachers are often invited by students to leave class and join in the parties.
“We say it is Chinese who enter their New Year, but the wasted drunkards are Khmer,” Sing Sithon said.