Hun Sen passes all students – and the buck

By announcing that all Cambodian Grade 12 students will pass automatically, the PM is doing himself – not youth – a favor.

Presumably ignoring the suggestions made by his Education Ministry, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen used a lengthy speech on Tuesday to announce that all Grade 12 students will automatically pass their final high-school exams this year, a decision wrapped up as a populist, heartfelt gesture amid a crisis, yet revealing of problems of how government decisions are made.

Cambodia’s schools have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, most having to close between March and September, forcing the exams to be delayed. Granted, Hun Sen noted that he would be criticized for this latest move, though he argued, “We do not have any better choice than this.”

Not quite true. For sure, it’s better than failing all students or allowing the virus to spread as a community-transmission outbreak that began in mid-November isn’t yet definitely over, though it’s difficult to see how this is any more fair than using students’ previous semester’s work to decide their final mark (which Hun Sen expressly said was worse than his solution).

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