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New National Exams Made Easier This Year, Critics Say

Cambodian military police stand guard as students walk through the gate​ of a school in Phnom Penh, file photo.

The Ministry of Education plans to release results from Phnom Penh and Kandal province on Saturday, and the remainder on Sunday.

The Ministry of Education is prepared to release the results of the two-day national exam this weekend, ahead of schedule, but critics say the exam has been made easier than in the past in an effort to move more students along to higher education.

The ministry said in a statement it plans to release results from Phnom Penh and Kandal province on Saturday, and the remainder on Sunday, three days ahead of schedule.

This is the second year in a row the ministry has implemented tight rules on the exam, in an effort to curb rampant cheating. Last year, half the students who took the exam failed. Observers say this year, they expect up to 70 percent to pass, thanks in part to the Ministry of Education’s efforts to make the exam easier.

Ouk Chhayavy, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the ministry had made questions easier this year in hopes of getting more students to go on to university.

“As far as I know from the teachers who corrected the exams, more students will pass compared to last year,” she said. “But that’s not because of student ability. It is because the Ministry of Education’s loopholes.”

Some questions devised by the ministry were either wrong, in the case of at least one chemistry question, or political, in the case of a question about the “culture of dialogue,” a favored expression of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, she said.

Kao Poeun, executive director of the Khmer Institute for National Development, which monitored the exam process, told VOA Khmer the ministry had “intentionally” reduced the passing score and made the exam easier.

This, he said, will hurt the country in the future, especially as Cambodia will soon have to compete with all of Asean, when a free flow of goods and services ensues under economic integration, set for the end of the year.

“Once we have lower standards, we can see higher amounts of students pass, but it will not comply to the Asean framework,” he said.

Education Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.