From where I sit - Set course for deception

May 17, 2012

Scandals are hardly in short supply here, but the public and media were still shocked by the revelations that emerged during the national Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing two months ago.

Ge Jianxiong, professor of Chinese historical geography at Fudan University, openly urged Yuan Guiren, the minister of education (pictured below), to apologise for a large-scale leak of the questions set for the national graduate school entrance examinations earlier this year.

After replying that police were still investigating the case, Mr Yuan said that more than 5,000 candidates had been caught cheating during the English exam on 7 January, and that 1.5 million test papers had been rechecked to track additional suspects.

According to the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly newspaper, when more than 1.65 million people (a record number) sat the national exam, many students based in the Guangdong and Hunan provinces had received answers for the paper via text messages on their mobile phones 19 minutes before the test began. Further investigations disclosed that the same thing happened before the politics exam held earlier that day, with answers sent by text 32 minutes ahead of time.

According to the press report, an employee of Sailing Education Group in Guangzhou (the capital city of Guangdong) is being investigated over claims that he sent answers to students who had participated in the company's training programme for graduate entrance exams. Two employees were detained by the police in February on suspicion of betraying state secrets.

Sailing Education was founded in 1998. Although based in Beijing, the firm's core business - training students for graduate entrance exams - now extends to 25 provinces and municipalities. According to Southern Weekly, one of the firm's "intensive" training lectures costs at least 300 yuan and attracts about 2,000 participants on average.

The newspaper claimed that to attract more customers, some of these exam training firms had posted pictures of test-paper envelopes branded "top secret" on their websites.

As a result, the public tends to believe that the source of the leak lies in the education system itself, and Mr Yuan has promised that "any students or education officials found to be involved in the scandal will be seriously punished according to relevant laws and regulations".

But even after two months, the truth has still not come to light. On Professor Ge's microblog on sina.com, there are plenty of panicked queries from students who took the test and fear that they could end up as innocent victims of the scandal.

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