More than 70 percent of nearly 90,000 of Cambodia's high school students who sat for this year’s national examination have failed, the Ministry of Education announced Friday—the result of a government crackdown on bribery and cheating that had tainted previous exams.
It was a stunning reversal of the 80 percent pass rate last year and the previous year, forcing Prime Minister Hun Sen to give a “second chance” to unsuccessful candidates who have to sit for another examination around mid-October.
The ministry said in a statement that only 25.72 percent or 23,126 of 89,937 students passed this year’s Grade 12 examination held early this month under the watchful eyes of thousands of monitors recruited by the Anti-Corruption Unit.
Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said the result of the examination—a prerequisite for students wishing to pursue university level studies—underscored the government’s move to check cheating as part of deep reforms implemented at the ministry.
“This year’s examination was the first test of deep reforms that have been carried out at the ministry,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
Cambodia's Anti-Corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng this week praised high school teachers for overseeing the "cleanest-ever" national exam but warned that jail time awaits anyone who is found to be corrupt at the second round of exams, the Cambodia Daily reported.
He said that less than 500 of the more than 10,000 teachers who oversaw the exam were noted by ACU officials as not having done their job properly.
“There will be no exceptions at the second exam. At that time, you will at least be held in pretrial detention for one month—that would be long enough to remove your name from the payroll,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
“You are the teachers and if you mistreat or cheat your own students it would not be different from a father raping his daughter.”
Phann Nil, the principal of Chea Sim Samaki high school in the capital Phnom Penh, said the examination result was a “wake-up call” for students.
“This result will encourage students to study hard and parents must also pay attention to their children,” he said.
Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association deputy president Ouk Chhayavy said the association endorsed the examination result but was not supportive of the decision to give students who failed a second chance, citing the financial strain on the government.
“I congratulate the students because the result they obtained was based on their own knowledge,” she said.
Sorn Chovorthey, a student who excelled in the examination, said it was the result of hard work.
“My advice to those students who failed: don’t be discouraged because you have a second chance. You have another month to study. Please study hard, day and night, and be confident,” he said.
Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron, who has been credited for the reforms at his ministry, said strict measures had to be taken to eliminate irregularities in the examination.
He said the ministry would provide additional classes for key subjects to students who failed in preparation for the re-test, which he pointed out would be as vigorous as the earlier examination.
“Even though we have only one and a half months left, you must study hard,” he told the students.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.