Parents willing to pay millions for substitute gaokao takers

By Liu Sha Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-8 0:03:31

Drones, fingerprint ID and iris-matching used to nab cheaters

Monitored by surveillance cameras, high school students from Guiyang, Guizhou Province take the annual college entrance exams on Sunday. Photo: IC

Reports said parents would pay syndicates up to several million yuan to have college students take China's grueling national college entrance exams for their high school children.

The report from the Nandu Daily came as China's Ministry of Education (MOE) vowed to investigate and harshly punish surrogate exam-takers exposed in Jiangxi Province on Sunday, the first day of China's notoriously stressful national college entrance exams, also known as  the gaokao.

The Nandu Daily report said that parents would pay up to several million yuan to hire surrogate exam-takers to get their children to top-tier universities.

A total of 9.42 million Chinese high school students on Sunday sat for gaokao, deemed as the "battle to determine fate" and the only way most students get to universities.

Chinese, math and English are the three main subjects of the two-day tests.

The Nandu Daily reporter, who went undercover at a surrogate exam-taker agency together with college students in Wuhan, Hubei Province, said on Sunday that the surrogate exam-takers used their real photos on forged identity and test cards with the personal information of the real exam-takers.

Jiangxi police have detained two suspects and said the cases are under investigation.

The reporter also said that in some other cases, all the personal information of a surrogate exam-taker used to register and take the gaokao is fabricated and his test scores and the forged identity could be sold to a student, who would use the forged identity to enroll in college.

In such cases, surrogate exam-takers could earn 25,000 yuan ($4,030) for achieving scores that meet the requirements of first-tier universities and 20,000 yuan for second-tiered ones.

One of the alleged surrogates surnamed Li told the Nandu Daily that he started to take the gaokao for other people when he was a college freshman and this is his fourth year. Li said he came from a poor family and had earned over 100,000 yuan, and helped recruit many other surrogate exam-takers for the agency.

Calling for the installation of more advanced identification machines to confirm exam-takers' identity rather than just relying on test monitors, the Nandu Daily report soon gained wide public attention.

The MOE immediately released a statement on its website, vowing to expel the surrogate exam-takers from their universities, urging local police to conduct a thorough investigation.

Last year, Henan police investigated and cracked down on a similar case. Over 80 people, including surrogate exam-takers, test monitors, education officials and parents were given punishments, ranging from warnings to job dismissals.

The MOE also launched a campaign on June 2 against the sale of wireless devices frequently used for cheating in the  gaokao.

Various measures to prevent cheating have been implemented in different regions. Students in Sichuan and Liaoning provinces have to go through a fingerprint and iris-match process before being allowed to take the exam.

Drones have been used in Henan Province to detect wireless signals, and finger vein identification has been used in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to bust surrogate exam-takers.

In the last decade, gaokao-related stress has been eased by a doubled college admission rate. But the link between gaokao results and college admission remains strong, said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing.

Despite criticism that the test is overly stressful and emphasizes rote memorization and that because of this more students choose to study overseas, people still believe in the value of the gaokao, which provides equal opportunities for exam-takers from both rural and urban areas, he said.

The number of exam-takers in 2015 increased slightly after declining for five consecutive years. The number of exam-takers peaked in 2008 at 10.5 million.

In 2013, a reform blueprint of the Chinese authorities said that the key to gaokao reform lies in the separation of exams and admissions.

Gaokao scores can serve as a basis for universities to evaluate students, Xiong said, adding that with separate exams and admissions criteria, schools will eventually break free from the exam-oriented education system.

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