Riot After Chinese Teachers Try to Stop Gaokao Cheating

Corruption surrounding China’s college entrance exam (gaokao)—the world’s largest standardized test—has long been noted, and every year schemes to cheat on this future-determining rite of passage become widely covered scandals. China is now the world’s largest smartphone market, and in 2011 authorities initiated measures to combat the use of phones and customized wireless devices for cheating. Ahead of this year’s exam, China Daily reported on a Ministry of Education campaign to fight cheating that had already yielded a number of arrests. For the Daily Telegraph, Malcolm Moore reports on a riot sparked by measures to guard against cheating in Zhongxiang, Hubei province:

When students at the No. 3 high school in Zhongxiang arrived to sit their exams earlier this month, they were dismayed to find they would be supervised not by their own teachers, but by 54 external invigilators randomly drafted in from different schools across the county.

The invigilators wasted no time in using metal detectors to relieve students of their mobile phones and secret transmitters, some of them designed to look like pencil erasers.

[…]For the students, and for their assembled parents waiting outside the school gates to pick them up afterwards, the new rules were an infringement too far.

As soon as the exams finished, a mob swarmed into the school in protest.

[…]By late afternoon, the invigilators were trapped in a set of school offices, as groups of students pelted the windows with rocks. Outside, an angry mob of more than 2,000 people had gathered to vent its rage, smashing cars and chanting: “We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.” [Source]

Cheating in china is a widespread practice, noted throughout society—from schoolchildren to the political elite. The South China Morning Post relays a few post-riot Weibo comments that help to explain the seemingly contradictory quote “there is no fairness if you do not let us cheat”:

On Weibo microblogs, people seem shocked and discussed implications of the conflict.

“Everyone is trying to break laws in China,” one microblogger wrote. “That’s why those [students] who were caught [cheating] call it unfair.”

“That’s what happens when there’s no rule of law in this country,” another wrote. [Source]

At the Atlantic, Matt Schiavenza looks at China’s educational legacy and the egalitarian theory behind the gaokao to conclude that, for Chinese students, cheating is a must:

In theory, the gaokao is China’s great equalizer: A farmer from rural Sichuan has every bit a chance to succeed as does a politician’s son in Beijing, no small accomplishment in a country with such income inequality. But — abuse over the quota system aside — the overwhelming emphasis on examinations is blamed for creating graduates who lack creativity and innovation, both skills the Chinese government hope will spur the country’s next phase of economic growth.

But in the meantime, the simple fact remains that, in Chinese schools, you’d almost have to be crazy not to cheat on your tests. [Source]

Also see prior CDT coverage of cheating and the college entrance exam, including last year’s gaokao roundup “Another Year, Another Wild Gaokao.”

June 21, 2013 3:11 PM
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Categories: Society