Rug pulled from under cheats

July 21, 2006

Vietnam's Minister of Education and Training has sent a letter to senior officials ordering them to stamp out an epidemic of exam cheating affecting universities.

Nguyen Thien Nhan told them: "The issue has long (hampered) the development of the Vietnamese education system. The time has come to enlist all in society to say 'no' to exam cheating."

In the first phase of university entrance exams this month, invigilators at the Banking Institute spotted a student wearing a wig. Hidden under the wig was a mobile phone earpiece.

According to Hanoi police, he was one of 20 students who had paid up to 50 million dong (£1,600) for the answers. The student led police to a network that had been operating for three years. One member of the group would take the exam, leave early and call the students to give them the answers.

Cheating is widespread. Nguyen Thu, who studies at the Vietnam National University, said: "It is a big problem in entrance exams. Some students who aren't very good can pass."

The curriculum is largely based on rote learning. Most students can predict the standard questions they are likely to be asked. They write notes on paper, reduce them on a photocopier and cut the paper into strips that can be hidden in pockets or bras.

Tran Van Kham, head of the youth union at the university, said: "Students can petition their lecturers for high marks with money or gifts."

And there is evidence that education authorities in some areas turn a blind eye to cheating in exchange for bribes.

University education is key to a good job, and, said Mr Kham, "cheating in exams has its roots in parents' expectations".

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