Every year, PLF awards upwards of 25 full University Scholarships to deserving students coming up through our various projects. The impact of students having missed school for most of the last 18 months is tremendous and has put plenty of wrenches in the decision-making process for the last two years.
Normally, we have more than 50 applications. This year there were 66. The first cull is done by having a look at their scores, their participation in PLF workshops and activities throughout their time in school, the number of certificates awarded, etc. Their score on the grade 12 national exam factors heavily.
With students out of school for the last 18 months, we have no scores whatsoever. Just students being passed from one grade to the next.
Last year the government suddenly withdrew national exams for grade 12 (normally this is a very big part of vetting for the awards). We closed our eyes, took our best shot, and awarded 28 scholarships. We did this almost solely on anecdotal data- mostly using our own personal knowledge of the students to make what was a very risk-weighted decision.
It was terrifying and we can only thank all the scholarship donors for taking this leap of faith with those 28 students.
Usually, applicants who look viable after this first cull then move to round two and we do family and student interviews. We managed to get this accomplished in 2020, when the COVID outbreak in Cambodia was less severe.
This has been impossible to do in 2021 as COVID has ramped up in Cambodia and seen communities everywhere being put in and out of lockdowns, provincial borders closing suddenly, etc.
In 2021 these interviews were done across Zoom as most communities (including Siem Reap proper where staff is) was in lockdown. It worked better than we thought it might. Only in the last week have we managed to schedule some face-to-face interviews with students and parents again.
All our students holding what we think are potentially viable applications have been coming to eLearning classes through the entire year and reporting to us that these classes are about 80% as effective as being in real class. The “rubber will meet the road” for how successful eLearning was when we see their scores on national exams
Will the government actually administer these exams this year? They say they will, but the date has been pushed out to December 6th. They could withdraw them at any time, leaving us with a pool of viable students applying for College who haven’t been in school during their last two years of high school and may not be ready for it.
Closing one eye and taking our best shot isn’t going to work this year.
Because of this the Tertiary team has put together our own national exam, from materials available on the Ministry of Education website. It’s been an enormous effort to build the exam and will be an even bigger one to administer it to 55 candidates, but that’s what we’ve just done. This year we must know where the students are academically.
The PLF exam was administered on 24 October. If the government does administer the national exam in December, it will be interesting to see how they compare.
Our students continuously surprise us with their determination and this last year we have seen them dig deep; slogging to eLearning classes, having to learn to embrace an utterly new way of learning at warp-speed. They’ve done well; they’ve put in an extreme level of effort.
Our greatest wish is that all their push will result in a score that will secure their scholarships.
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