By Vong Socheata
I have been following stories on the yearly 12th-grade national exam closely for some time. When I wrote an opinion piece published in a local foreign-language newspaper in July 2011, I was extremely frustrated and without hope regarding the poor quality of the exam, which was marred by rampant bribery and cheating.
To my pleasant surprise, this year I got to witness something completely remarkable – the exam was significantly improved. This event restored my hope.
This year I volunteered to participate in the August 4-5 testing at the Chaktumuk Primary School examination centre. It was an effort led by the Anti-Corruption Unit in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. There, I had the rare chance to witness a significant improvement in the exam.
While bribery and cheating were rampant in the past decade, this time, students were allowed to bring just three items into testing rooms: a pen, a pencil and a ruler. However, there were still some irregularities, including attempts to bribe proctors and students looking at each other’s papers during the test.
There were also some reports of observers being taunted, threatened or physically attacked by students for catching them cheating. However, these irregularities were minimal. The entire national exam process was conducted in a satisfactory manner, according to Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron. According to an official statement from the Ministry of Education, the exam was held relatively smoothly.
Although results of the exams are yet to be announced, I am confident that the entire process was a huge improvement, as stated by the ministry and the media, and indeed as I witnessed at an exam centre myself.
The bribery and cheating at the exam in the past has done considerable economic harm to the nation. I greatly applaud the new leadership of the Education Ministry for demonstrating a very strong level of commitment to tackling this rampant problem.
This new education reform not only tackles the issue of the actual process of the 12th-grade exam itself, it also sends a warning message to the students, their younger brothers and sisters and their parents that corruption and bribery during the exams are no longer tolerated.