Hun Manet, a prime ministerial candidate for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), said it is necessary for parents to advise their children to study hard and accept the concept of believing in their own abilities in order for the quality of education in the country to improve.

Manet made the remarks as national junior and senior high school examinations are approaching. He was echoing the sentiments of Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron, who has frequently encouraged students to work hard in order to pass their exams.

“Chuon Naron said that when it came to the national exams, if you study hard, you will pass,” Manet said at the University of Indrawichea graduation ceremony on September 5.

“For me, this means not just working hard when it gets close to exam day, and then asking for help from your relatives – or running to your teacher’s house. Parents need to reinforce children’s belief in their own abilities, and let them know that they must rely on themselves. This is the kind of mindset that builds strong human resources,” he said.

Ministry spokesman Ros Sovacha reiterated that at all stages of the grades 9 and 12 exams, officials implements the “principles of justice, transparency and acceptable results” in accordance with health and safety measures. This would ensure the quality of the exam results, he added.

The ministry expects all candidates to independently plan their respective exam preparations, with the support of their teachers, parents or guardians, and all stakeholders, he said.

San Chey, executive director of the NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the ministry’s approach of “If you study hard, you will pass” is fair.

“The exams and policies of the ministry have been set and are clear. The phrase ‘If you study, you pass and if you don’t, you fail’ is short yet meaningful and makes it clear that students need to remember that their own efforts are ultimately responsible for their results,” he said.

Chey added that in order to strengthen the quality of education in Cambodia, parents, teacher and the community need to work together.

“In order to improve the education system, we need to make sure that the learning environment supports the students. It is also crucial that parents are involved with their children’s learning, as they spend more time with them than with their teachers,” he said.

“People in the community should also encourage students to study hard and be careful not to discourage them,” he added.

Chey also suggested that the government take into account teachers’ livelihoods as they are one of the most important factors in a successful education system.

According to Manet, who is currently Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Army, the national budget will increase in the field of education.

“But we will be targeting the way we apply the state’s funds and making sure that all spending is productive. We want the best shots, not just more bullets being fired inefficiently,” he said.

The education ministry has postponed this year’s high school examinations from November 14-15 to November 21-22, as the Kingdom is hosting the ASEAN Summit on November 10-13.

Last year, 72,016 out of a total of 114,187 registered candidates – or 65 per cent – passed the exam, 1,753 of them with an A grade, a nationwide increase compared to previous years.