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Tighter Security on Exams, But Critics Say Teachers Need Paid More

High school students pray for luck along the riverside of Phnom Penh as they prepare for their exams (Photo: Suy Heimkemra/VOA Khmer)

A major exam for students this year included tighter security in order to prevent widespread cheating, but critics say more needs to be done to improve Cambodia’s education system.

Underpaid teachers have demanded bribes at exams in the past, and allowed rampant cheating, but the Ministry of Education has instituted tighter rules on cheating for the baccalaureate exams.

Still, observers say that better salaries will improve education faster than crackdowns on cheaters.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday he liked the new reforms and he praised the Ministry of Education’s tighter controls on exams.

The Khmer Institute for National Development, the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability East Asia, and the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability issued a joint statement after exams saying testing had been conducted without widespread cheating.

Ouk Chhayavy, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said a reduction in cheating is good, but teachers need more pay, “to ensure the high quality of their work.”

Kao Poeun, executive director of the Khmer Institute for National Development, said exam cheating appears to be reduced, but he said students are still only preparing for it in the last two years of high school, rather than throughout the earlier grades. “They should have learned in a high quality education system,” he said. He also endorsed greater salaries for teachers.

This is the second year of tight restrictions on testing implemented by the Ministry of Education, which has also worked with the Anti-Corruption Unit to reduce bribery of teachers. More than half of students last year failed the exam.