Of the almost 90,000 Cambodian students who took the grueling two-day Grade 12 exam, required to graduate from high school and attend university, only 25.72 percent passed in the wake of a Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport crackdown on corruption and cheating.
Although disappointed that the results were even worse than the predicted 30 percent pass rate, Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron told The Phnom Penh Post that the good thing is that students who did pass, passed on merit. “And it also gives a lot of information for us [about certain] provinces, and also, for subject areas where we have low scores, we can focus on those subjects for curriculum reform, textbook reform and retraining teachers.”
In 2013, 87 percent of students passed the exam. Before the crackdown, it was common practice for students to cheat openly during exams, including bribing proctors and purchasing answer keys. According to Transparency International, Cambodia ranked 160th out of 177 surveyed countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index.
This year, exams were staffed with 10,000 trained monitors from the Anti-Corruption Unit.
The Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association advocates for better teacher training and livable salaries as teachers are currently paid so little that the only way they can make ends meet is to tutor students after school and accept bribes.
Failing students will have a second chance in October. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports will also distribute study guides and organize study sessions for students who cannot afford extra tutoring.