September can be a stressful month for children in Cambodia – it’s final exams time! The school year is about to conclude, so all our kids are busy studying for their tests. The results will be released at month’s end, just in time for the Pchum Ben national holiday. Until then, there will be much anxiety and nail-biting.
Preparing for the exams is an all-out effort that involves not just the kids themselves, but the entire staff of Little Hearts as well. For example, during exam season Roxanne sometimes makes the kids study outdoors (weather permitting). ‘They need a change of scenery,’ she says. ‘Being outside improves calmness and mental clarity; it brings the kids into stronger harmony with nature and promotes relaxation. It makes studying less burdensome.’
Her colleague Phatje holds daily revision sessions for students who need help with test preparation. And in the evening, a tutor comes to Little Hearts to assist the kids in specific subjects that many struggle with, such as maths and physics. Even our cook, Ma Khun, does her part by preparing dishes that she knows the kids like especially, just to give them that little bit of extra comfort during a difficult time.
During the examination period, daily English classes for Levels 2 and 3 are suspended in order to give the kids more time to study. Phatje uses the time freed up in this manner to boost the number of English lessons offered to community kids. These lessons, which are offered as a free extracurricular activity to children from surrounding villages, have now been turned into daily events.
The only ones who are on easy street during September are our university students. The tertiary academic schedule is different, so most universities are still in recess. Sarim is currently finishing his summer job, while Ilay, who has too much free time on her hands, is helping with the teaching load by taking over English Level 1 instruction for our youngest residents.
The good news is that most of our students typically pass with above-average results. But that doesn’t mean they’re not nervous!
Some students are under extra pressure because after taking their end-of-term exams at school they must face state exams, which in Cambodia are administered nationally to children at the end of grades 6, 9 and 12. Dina, Mary, Lisa, Vandeth, Bunrath, Jeff, Dara and Charlie, who are all finishing grade 6, will have their national exam almost immediately, on September 9th, while our grade 9 kids (Micky, Malee, Daleine, Dalin, Sreyroth and Ben) will be tested on October 24th and 25th.
Finally, there’s Jack. He’s in grade 12, the final year of high school, so he will take his national baccalaureate exam on December 21st and 22nd. To help him prepare for this challenge, Jack is receiving extra tutoring sessions on the weekend. We wish him and the other examinees all the best.
Jack has big plans for his post-secondary education. With good results in the national examination, he hopes to be admitted to the American University of Phnom Penh, a private institution that offers a US curriculum and has partnerships with the University of Arizona and Fort Hays State University in Kansas.
What subject will he study? He’s still undecided, but he has narrowed it down to either business or education. He is keen to enrol in a Bachelor of Business Management program with a focus on international business, but he’s also considering a Bachelor of Secondary Education in English with a minor in Khmer history. And indeed being an educator would suit his personality – his English is fluent and he always enjoys helping his younger brothers and sisters with their homework. We look forward to watching him excel at university, whatever his major.