Over 100,000 Cambodian high school students began taking graduation exams this Monday that could determine their future.
At the end of the first day of test administration, Cambodia’s Minister of Education, Hang Choun Naron, told journalists there were 117,061 registered exam-takers this year, up from 103,112 last year, although around 1,700 students were absent.
The number of examination centers also increased, from 150 in 2014 to 196 in 2018, he said.
This is the fifth year of test-taking after the high-school exit exams were comprehensively overhauled under the leadership of Choun Naron, who was appointed as a reformist education minister after the 2013 national election.
Previously, the exam was rife with cheating, as proctors often looked the other way or accepted bribes to allow students to use crib sheets. Starting in 2014, however, security was beefed up in an effort to ensure that only serious students could pass.
That year, around 70 percent of high school students failed the test. But last year, around two-thirds of students managed to pass, as high-schoolers apparently became acclimated to test-taking without cheating.
In interviews with VOA Khmer on Monday, two candidates both said they were optimistic after finishing the morning exam session.
Meas Chanthan, a student at Russei Keo High School, said that she could answer the test questions, but that the mood in the exam room was tense.
“The proctors guarded us the whole time. They walked back and forth. I couldn’t even move.”
Reaksmey Darath, also from Russei Keo High School, said she felt confident.
“When I walked in, I did not feel like praying because like I told you, I could answer the questions. I can say that it was what I have already learned.”
The two-day exam will conclude on Tuesday evening, and the results will be released in September.