Chinese students caught cheating on their grueling college entrance test can now face up to seven years in prison.
The National Higher Education Entrance Examination, called the Gaokao, is a grueling two-day, nine-hour test famed for its difficulty. One’s score on the test is by far the most important factor in university admissions, meaning success or failure is often the difference between a successful professional career and a life of menial labor. Over nine millions students take the test each year, and because of its high importance it’s unsurprising there are many efforts to cheat on it.
Over time, cheating has evolved far beyond simple individual stunts like hiding a few notes on one’s person. Now, cheating is a group effort, and crosses over into full-blown government corruption. In 2015, for instance, 42 people in Jiangxi Province, including 22 government officials, were caught organizing a major cheating effort.
Officials have used increasingly complex methods to detect and stop cheating, with Henan Province officialsdeploying a drone to catch cheaters last year. To keep completed tests secure against tampering, Beijing is having them escorted by a SWAT team.
Now, officials are also looking to stop cheating by drastically upping punishments. Thanks to a law created last fall, which officials say they plan to seriously enforce, cheating on the Gaokao is now a criminal offense as well as an academic one. The maximum penalty is seven years behind bars, and offenders will also be barred from taking the test for three years, effectively barring them from university.
“Safeguarding fairness in the gaokao and education in general is the baseline for China to maintain social justice,” Chinese think tank head Xing Bingqi told the Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper. Performing well on the test is a means of social mobility for China’s poorer families, he said, making it critical to stop cheating by wealthier families with government connections.
Already, police have made 170 arrests for test-related offenses, the Global Times reported. Whether any of them will earn the most severe penalty remains to be seen.
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