Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

With grade 12 exam date set, students furiously studying

Students leaving class at Chea Sim Boeung Keng Kang high school in Phnom Penh, Picture taken October 22, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Students leaving class at Chea Sim Boeung Keng Kang high school in Phnom Penh, Picture taken October 22, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

After encountering plenty of hardship and uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, grade 12 students have begun preparing for the year-end final exams, which have been set for December 27.

The Ministry of Education Youth and Sports said they would be holding the statewide examination as the COVID-19 situation has stabilized and the vaccination campaign has been completed successfully. As of  November 21, the vaccination rate has reached 88.07 percent of Cambodia’s 16 million population.

Ngo Pichmorokort, a 12th grade student of Bak Touk high school, has been studying hard for the final exam. Preparing has been challenging, but she is trying to overcome her nervousness and lack of confidence.

“We have spent so much time learning online before moving to physical class. And that is the problem. We are not so ready to take the state exam,” said Pichmorokot.

Pichmorokot told CamboJA that after the challenges she faced during remote classes, she has taken extra classes to relearn what she missed, and address her weaknesses in each subject.

“My friends and I are so busy preparing ourselves just to make sure we are qualified enough for the upcoming exam. As of now, I am taking six different extra classes of six different subjects. It helps me a lot especially on what I missed during online class,” said Pichmorokot.

Speaking at the launch of the vaccination campaign for 5-year-old children early this month, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Education to organize the grade 12 examination. He said students should not be allowed to pass automatically, as it could affect human resource development in the long term.

“I know​ that they have not learned enough due to COVID-19, so they should try their best to pass. And if not, they can try it again next year,” said Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Students learning in their class in Phnom Penh, Picture taken November 1, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Rin Soyary, a 12 grade student at Heng Samrin high school in Kampong Cham province, told CamboJA that it is acceptable for students to take the national exam as they have had enough time back in-person to catch up on missing lessons. 

“I personally think it is fair enough for us as the grade 12 students to take exams at the end of this year. Because we were allowed to get back to class before any other students, and I think we have enough time to improve our abilities,” said Soyary.

Soyary told CamboJA that she spends five hours a day on extra classes, which she said was typical among her classmates. Extra classes are considered an effective way to improve student’s capabilities, she said, and they became more important during the pandemic as students could not learn as well. 

“I do not want to pass automatically as we saw last year, but I do hope that the ministry will make the exam a bit easier to fit with student’s understanding,” said Soyary.

The Ministry of Education Youth and Sports spokesman Rous Soveacha told CamboJA that the Ministry set the exam date on December 27 in order to provide extra time for the students.

“The national exam must continue applying the principles of law, justice, transparency, and acceptable results in accordance with health safety measures,” said Soveacha.

The Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association president Ouk Chayavy told CamboJA that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, grade 12 students had seen their learning disrupted. Even though classes were still available online, students — particularly those living in rural areas — could not make use of them due to the shortage of equipment and unstable internet connection.

“They [students] have faced different difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and based on what I observe I can tell that not many students will pass the exam this year,” said Chayavy.