Technology is exacerbating a cheating epidemic in China, in which students weaponize the internet and spy-like technology to obtain the best scores on college entrance exams.
Chinese authorities displayed in June devices designed to look like belts, erasers, and watches, which students would use to cheat on exams, reported Daily Mail. The watch functions as a camera which, upon obtaining a photo of the test, transmits the snapshot via an antenna embedded in the student’s shirt to an outside recipient. An earpiece is then used to send answers back.
Police officers utilize signal detectors to monitor airwaves. Students found cheating cannot enroll in higher education for one to three years.
“The nature of test cheating has changed in the 21st century with the proliferation of technologies for secret instant messaging (e.g. Snapchat), sites where information about upcoming tests can be exchanged (e.g. Reddit), and the dark web,” Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a company which monitors testing abuse, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Some students/families are willing to pay significant money [for] an unfair leg-up in the U.S. college admissions process, which many overseas students believe is overwhelmingly competitive,” Schaeffer said.
Indeed, some Chinese students pay thousands of dollars to hire graduate students to take college entrance exams for them, The Atlantic reported. Chinese student Yue Zou participated in one such scam in 2013, doling out $2,000 for a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) test-taker and $6,000 for someone to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for her.
Year after year, students from the city of Zhongxiang in the Hubei province of China obtained a disproportionate number of slots at prestigious Chinese universities, according to Telegraph. After the Hubei education department found 99 identical papers from Zhongxiang students in 2012, proctors cracked down on the city’s high school, using metal detectors to strip students of phones and other telecommunication devices, some of which had the external appearance of erasers.
Female supervisors searched female students’ private parts and officers outside found two groups attempting to help students from a hotel across from the school. Right after the exam, a mob surged into the building. Test proctors found themselves trapped in school offices as at least 2,000 rioters battered cars and threw rocks at the windows.
“We want fairness,” they shouted. “There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.”
While police officers eventually intervened, the local government described the incident as one in which “exam supervision had been too strict and some students did not take it well.”
“The ACT is no longer administered in mainland China, except in schools for students from outside that country, because of previous test security problems,” Schaeffer told TheDCNF.
“Testmakers such as ACT, the College Board and [Educational Testing Service] have tried to keep tests secret by techniques such as shipping exams to administrative centers in locked boxes for which computer codes are not distributed until the morning of exam day,” Schaeffer said. “It is obvious that they are not able to keep up with new ways to cheat.”
College Board, the company which creates and administers the SAT, uses the same tests afterwards in China, reported New York Post. Chinese test advice company SAT Helper offered a version of the March 5, 2015 SAT exam for free online, including five reading passages and 52 corresponding questions. College Board attempted to use the exam in China in October, but test-prep site Zhan.com, boasting more than 500,000 visitors per month, had also posted passages from the test.
“We’re working against cartel-like companies in China and other countries that will stop at nothing to enrich themselves,” John McGrath, senior vice president for communications and marketing at College Board, told New York Post. “These bad actors will continue to lie, cheat and steal to the detriment of students who work hard and play by the rules.” (RELATED: Entry Exam For American Colleges Cancelled After Security Breach In Asia)
One Chinese middle school made students wear newspaper hats with holes for eyes to ensure that cheating could not be conducted by looking at other students’ exams using peripheral vision.
Middle school teacher in east China sparks debate online for asking students to wear newspaper “hat” to prevent them from cheating in exam pic.twitter.com/ROAbEURS1K
— People’s Daily,China (@PDChina) January 1, 2017
The College Board directed TheDCNF to policies it introduced in February to enhance testing security. These policies included decreasing the number of international tests offered annually, handing over to law enforcement the names of entities suspected of abetting students in cheating, and improving the system by which individuals can report cheating.
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