To Reform or Not to Reform: Cambodian Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Education Reform and Changes to their National Grade 12 Examination
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In a time of global education reform, many countries are striving to reach their fullest potential. Cambodia is still working to rebuild its education system following the Khmer Rouge’s purge of education between 1975 and 1979. In 2014, the current Minister of Education, Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, initiated educational reforms aimed at creating a more economically competitive Cambodia. The administration began by rewriting the National Grade 12 Examination and implementing strict anti-cheating measures. This exam is required for high school graduation and university acceptance, but prior to these reforms there was rampant cheating on the exam, likely impacting the ability of students to perform well on university-level work and in the job market. There is limited research on public opinions and the effectiveness of the reforms to this exam. This study consisted of a 13-statement survey and a focus group, asking participants to express their perceptions of the impact of these recent reforms on higher education, economic competitiveness, and global opinions of Cambodia. Of the 53 survey participants, 29 took the post-reform exam, 23 took the pre-reform exam, and one took the exam in an unknown year. A majority of the participants (50) were university students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and the other three participants were friends or family of these students. Findings suggest that university students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, even those students who failed the revised exam, support the reforms and view them as necessary for the further development of their country.