Jul 10, 2014

Cambodia - Failing students ‘to blame’

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Students check exam registrations on a notice board in the lead-up to the exam period at Chaktomuk High School in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district last year.

A Kampong Thom high school director had no sympathy yesterday for his protesting students, claiming that a third of his school’s grade 12 class only have themselves to blame for flunking the grade.

Ieng Bunhan, director of Hun Sen Taing Kork High School in Baray district, defended his teachers, saying they had no ulterior motive in failing 52 grade 12 students.

The students have been protesting their semester exam results since Monday, when they found out they would not be able to sit the national exam in August and would have no shot at graduating this year.

Bunhan rejected their argument that they had failed because of teacher favouritism towards those who could afford extra, fee-based tutoring sessions.

“How about other subjects which do not have extra classes like geography – why did they also fail those subjects?”

On Tuesday, a delegation from the Ministry of Education met with Bunhan to try to find a suitable compromise.

“If we are asked to redo the semester exams for them, I won’t do it,” he said.

Chhim Soohal, 18, rejected the principal’s arguments and said none of the failing students had problems in subjects such as geography that did not require extra classes; instead, they failed only in literature and maths because they couldn’t afford the extra tutoring.

The national exam hit another glitch yesterday when Transparency International (TI) announced it was withdrawing its bid to independently observe the test taking.

Program director Pech Pisey, said TI was not permitted to register back-up observers in the event of test-day absenteeism, which would prevent the organisation from properly conducting its study.

Though the test day is now short by more than 100 volunteer observers, the ministry seemed unfazed.

“The [Anti-Corruption Unit] will already have its own monitors in place and they are more powerful than TI,” Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron said. “The ACU can take action if irregularities occur, TI cannot.”

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