In pursuit of her dream to secure a high school diploma and embrace a teaching career, 57-year-old Hem Sinath recently stood as the oldest candidate among 130,000 participants in the Grade 12 exams on November 6-7.

Undeterred by exam setbacks on two separate occasions, she maintained her resolve, gearing up for the 2023 examination.

Currently employed as a non-formal education contract tutor under a Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, she is a native of Trapeang Run village in Tany commune, Angkor Chey district of Kampot province.

Residing in Thma Romiel Khang Koeut village of Banteay Chhmar commune in Thma Puok district, Banteay Meanchey province, Sinath, a widow with four children and seven grandchildren, imparts literacy skills to elderly farmers after their daytime duties. Earning a monthly salary of 500,000 riel ($125), she dedicates two hours each day, teaching from 5pm to 7pm, Monday to Saturday.

“I’ve resolved to pursue a degree as it holds paramount significance in validating my education. My aim is to serve as a role model for future generations, encouraging people to pursue their education,” she told The Post.

Sinath dedicated her Sundays to studying at Khla Kon Secondary School in Serei Saophoan town, gearing up for the Grade 12 exam. She also utilised YouTube tutorials to guide her through exercises and exam preparation.

When the exam day arrived, Sinath sat for the test at Teuk Thla Secondary School in Banteay Meanchey province, a journey of approximately 100km for her.

Waking up at 4 am on the first day of the two-day exam, she diligently prepared materials such as pens and a ruler, focusing on both mental readiness and maintaining her health. She expressed confidence in answering many exam questions but remained unsure of her likelihood of passing.

Resilient determination

“The examination guidelines permit her to take the exam, and it is her choice to pursue success for her future goals. The ministry welcomes and encourages her participation, urging her to study diligently and extending best wishes for success,” stated Khuon Vicheka, spokesperson for the education ministry.

Vicheka said that, according to the ministry’s policy, there is no restriction on older candidates aspiring to undertake the Grade 12 exam.

Should she face failure once more, Sinath asserted her intention to register for the exam again next year, determined to exert even greater effort.

“Lifelong education holds great significance as it aligns with the global progress of today. Therefore, delving into a lifetime learning is necessary to adapt to and utilise the latest technology. Unlike the past, we are now surrounded by advanced technology, requiring diligent study to comprehend its usage,” remarked Sinath.

“If I succeed in the exam, my goal is to pursue further studies in Phnom Penh. I am driven to attain a teaching degree, as my longstanding desire has always been to become a teacher,” she said.

She stated her intention to maintain her role as an educator, underlining her goal to successfully pass the exam, which would open the pathway for further studies in higher education.