A downcast 20-year-old Oeur Kosal stood outside the Daun Penh Primary School on Monday afternoon after the first round of high school seniors’ final exams, offering a bleak prediction for how she did on the day’s biology and geography exams.
“I did not do well in this afternoon’s exam because it is so strict I cannot cheat,” Oeur Kosal said. “I’m not so confident in myself when I can’t cheat.”
Several students, shopkeepers and teachers interviewed Monday said security was tight on the first day of exams, which continue today and Wednesday.
“I brought documents from home, but I left them outside the school,” 18-year-old Phal Pisey said outside of Chaktomuk Junior High School, where she said security was strict. She still had managed to buy answers to the test for $2.50 outside the school, but they turned out to be bogus, she said.
The owner of a copy and printing shop near Bac Tuok Primary School said on condition of anonymity that his shop was ordered to close after students clustered inside to photocopy test answers.
Ke Nay Leang, education general director at the Ministry of Education, said that he had received no report of irregularities inside or outside examination centers.
But despite the crackdown on cheating ordered by the ministry—coming with sanctions such as students being held back a year and teachers banned from proctoring—some students said cheating was business as usual.
Thy Long, 19, said he paid his proctor $1.25 at Santhormok High School to turn a blind eye to cheating. “There is still cheating and corruption during the exams,” he said.
And Lim Rithy, who was about to take a test at Bac Tuok Primary School, said he had cheat sheets concealed all over his body. “I string documents everywhere on my body to make sure that teachers cannot find them,” he said. “I am not comfortable to carry them [openly] but my body is heavy with them.”
Lim Rithy said the culture of cheating was hard to avoid.
“Everybody will cheat,” he said. “How can I be honest? I just follow what others do.”
(Additional reporting by Joe Tarr)