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No pulling punches over China’s ‘gaokao’
Exam fever strikes as parents attack teachers for foiling kids’ cheating bids
By Ho Ai Li China Correspondent In Beijing
Source – Straits Times, published June 14, 2013
The ugly scenes involving mobs of parents and students at a school in Hubei province last weekend sparked concerns about the distortion of values over the gaokao or university entrance exams. — PHOTO: WEIBO
MOST parents would get upset if their children cheat during examinations. That was what a group of Chinese parents did – except that they directed their anger at the teachers, with some even resorting to violence.
A father punched a teacher in the face for foiling his son’s attempt to cheat during China’s national university entrance exam; separately, nearly a hundred parents and students laid siege to an exam centre, angry with invigilators for being too strict.
These ugly scenes, which took place outside a school in central Hubei province last weekend, have sparked concerns about the kind of values parents are teaching their children and the excessive pressure from the high-stakes exam, known as gaokao in Chinese.
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Dozens of cops had to line up in two rows in front of Zhongxiang City’s No. 3 Secondary School on Saturday to protect and escort the teachers from the parent-student mob.
“If you don’t come out, we’d beat you to death,” a female voice is heard shouting in a video of the incident posted online.
Some parents, however, said they acted because the security checks carried out on their children to prevent any from cheating were inappropriate.
“The children are already nervous. Then there are male teachers doing body searches. It’s going to make them even more nervous psychologically,” said an angry mother in a video shown on the Shenzhen Satellite TV channel.
Others alleged that their kids were groped during these body searches, but the authorities later refuted such accusations.
Some parents have even reportedly resorted to violence against teachers trying to keep their students honest.
On Friday, a student’s father punched a teacher surnamed Li for confiscating his son’s iPhone, which could not be taken into the exam, and rejecting his bribe to settle the matter.
Another teacher surnamed Qian was almost beaten up by a parent on Saturday for foiling an attempt at cheating, but police stopped the parent, the state Xinhua News Agency reported.
Observers say the Hubei cases, while extreme, underline the perennial problem of cheating during the gaokao.
This year, for instance, some students in north-eastern Jilin province hid mini walkie-talkies – to receive answers from outsiders – in napkins to evade checks, reported the China Youth Daily.
This came even after Jilin tried to put a stop to the use of wireless cheating devices by banning students from wearing clothes with metal parts, including bras with metal clasps.
“When it comes to cheating during the gaokao, the cheats are always one step ahead of the invigilators,” education scholar Cheng Fangping of Renmin University told The Straits Times.
The angry mob outside the school in Hubei also reflects a distortion of values, analysts add.
“The key issue is that those who cheat don’t see anything wrong with it. They think it’s very normal,” noted education scholar Xiong Bingqi of the non-governmental 21st Century Education Research Institute.
One reason is that the gaokao is a high-stakes exam, which Chinese parents see as a gateway to success for their children if they do well and enter top universities.
“So, people think the end justifies the means,” he added.
Agreeing, Professor Cheng said: “In their hearts, they probably think that they are unlucky to be caught (cheating).”
What is needed is to have more publicity about rules against cheating in exams, be it the gaokao or other national ones like the civil service exam, said Prof Cheng.
He said there should also be standard operating procedures for invigilators, to ensure that there are no misunderstanding or cases of wrongful accusations.
“There must be two teachers present, for instance. Students in the exam room can also be eye witnesses,” he suggested.
Going to extremes for better grades
– They attack invigilators
In 2009, parents and students in north-eastern Jilin province tried to rough up invigilators for hindering their attempts to cheat, local media reported. Many had paid up to 8,000 yuan (S$1,600) to be fed exam answers through mini-ear pieces.
– They divert a plane
In 2007, parents of central Anhui province took no chances and demanded that a plane slated to take off near a test centre be diverted so that it would not affect their children while they sat an English listening comprehension paper.
– They use drips and jabs
Last year, students from Hubei province reportedly went on intravenous drips to boost their energy levels.
There have also been reports of female students from unspecified provinces taking birth control pills or hormone injections to delay menstruation to be in the best physical state for the exam.