The Chinese Ministry of Education issued an emergent notice on December 27, 2003 ordering high education institutions to curb cheating in examinations.
Soon after, the ministry issued another writ early this month asserting that any examinee caught bringing cell phones or other communication equipment into exams in the National Entrance Examination to Graduate Schools and the National Self-study Higher Education Examination scheduled for January will be deemed to be cheating.
College students in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China said cheating is out in the open and unsurprising as in their school open plagiarism and mass cheating replaces previous petty behaviour such as smuggling in notes and passing on answers.
Xiao Yu, a woman college student, said, on condition of anonymity, that she and her roommates had witnessed or at least heard about a lot of cheating.
She went on to say that when she took an exam for an economics course on December 12, 2003 she saw many students occupy “favorite” seats and plant their “friends” around them to facilitate helping each other before the exam.
Zhang, Xiao Yu’s roommate, said when she took an exam the week before she saw examinees displaying what she called “special skills.” They smuggled notes, books and cell phones into the exam. A guy stunned her as he passed his test paper to a woman student in the back row after he finished plagiarizing from answers contributed by other examinees. And what seems more incredible is that the invigilator seemed to turn a blind eye to the illicit behavior.
An officer with the student affairs department of a Guangxi university said that students have began to use “hi-tech” equipment such as beepers, cell phones, electronic dictionaries and personal digital assistants to help them cheat.
The officer also said he once seized thick, smuggled notes from an examinee who confessed at last that he had spent a whole week copying out the notes.
“It’s really baffling to me that a student would rather spend that much time preparing to cheat than preparing for the exam,” he said with a forced smile.
“Those who would rather fail exams than cheat are idiots,” said Liu, a junior. “Today many student’s minds are just not on learning and consequently know almost nothing teachers have taught them. How can they memorize such an enormous amount of knowledge several days before an exam? So, they have to cheat.”
Xiao Lu, a woman student, said that she cheated because she wanted high scores to please her parents.
“So many people cheat in exams, I feel I would lose out if I kept honest,” said Zhong, a foreign language student at a Guangxi college. “In some classes everybody cheats and they would be called hypocrites if they kept upright.”
And there are other students, men in particular, who cheat for the sake of personal loyalty to their friends.
All in all, those interviewed said most students cheated and those who are absolutely honest are small in number.
Some students blame the situation on the lenient attitudes of teachers and school authorities.
They said not every teacher is strict and there are always some teachers who like to “wink” at cheating.
Also, many schools give only small punishments to cheating students, which actually encourages rather than deters cheating.
Ms. Zhang, a college student who will graduate this summer, said that she has a classmate who received a punishment of a one-year graduation suspension for cheating when she was a freshman but will now graduate like her classmates this summer. This happened because the school authorities arranged an extra exam for her with the excuse of “restudying the course.”
Sources with Ms. Zhang’s school said that the purpose of punishment is to educate and a student’s future could really suffer if they were actually suspended.
Some interviewed students said that they are not really afraid of punishments from schools because their senior fellow students tell that teachers eventually pardon everybody and cheating records are never included in personnel files as is threatened in school regulations.
In Xi’an, the city famous for its terracotta warriors and horses, flyers for recruiting substitute examinees in the National Entrance Examination appeared in local universities this month, offering 2,000 yuan (US$241.92) for each course. It’s reported that most imposters are current graduate students.
In 2003, disclosure of test papers happened at two national examinations: the National College Entrance Examination in June and the College English Test Band 4 in September.
In the wake of rampant cheating on campuses, some local education authorities and universities also launched crackdowns.
The Education Department of southeast China’s Jiangsu Province said this month it would bring university heads to account for serious cheating incidents.
In Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China published the names of 41 students, including an MBA student, who cheated in recent examinations on its intranet and dismissed 17 of them.