In a blatant defiance of examination rules, Cambodia’s high school students are looking up answers to test questions online through their cell phones under the noses of proctors, some of whom have been bribed.
“This year, cheating has increased,” Cambodian Independent Teachers Association president Rong Chhun told RFA as high school examinations got under way in the country.
“Students are using smart phones to surf the Internet and Facebook for answers,” he said, adding that in some examination centers, school proctors also ask students for bribes in the exams, which run from Aug. 6-8.
The reports of bribery and cheating underscore Cambodia’s reputation, highlighted in a recent report by Berlin-based Transparency International, for widespread corruption in the public sector.
Students have paid between 5,000 riel (U.S. $1.23) to 20,000 riel (U.S.$4.91) for answers to exam questions, sources told RFA.
Cheating has been reported in the capital Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap, Pursat, and Prey Veng, Rong Chhun said, while in Prey Veng, proctors are allowing some students to take exams on behalf of others.
In Battambang province, it was calm outside the test centers on the second day of exams. But inside, students were using smart phones to look up answers to chemistry and history questions posted on Facebook.
Speaking to RFA, students said that proctors had asked students to raise money for them in exchange for permission to cheat.
A father named Hang Sambo said that he had told his son not to bribe proctors if asked for money.
One proctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that he had been asked by his own supervisor for a payment of at least 200,000 (U.S. $49.10) as a share of what his superior assumed would be the bribes paid to him.
“Only a few in the classroom know the subjects. They are relying on answer sheets,” he said.
In some cases, students are using answer sheets provided by their teachers, he said, while in others teachers are entering the answers onto test papers themselves.
In Phnom Penh, students admitted using smart phones to cheat on their tests, while RFA reporters saw answer sheets sold openly on the streets close to examination centers.
Cambodian Independent Teachers Association president Rong Chhun said he has asked the country’s Ministry of Education to take immediate steps to end the cheating during exams.
Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Cambodia 164th worst out of 182 countries surveyed in its 2011 Corruption Perception Index.
Cambodia’s official Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) launched an initiative in May to eliminate bribes solicited by local commune councilors for performing public services, with ACU deputy director Chhay Savuth declaring the country’s “culture of bribery has been in place for over 20 years.”
But international organizations have warned that Cambodia’s graft-busting bodies will be ineffective until they are free of government influence and control.
Reported by Sophalmony Soun and Mom Sophon for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.