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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gaokaois examination ~ Chinese drone technology supervising copying !!

June heralds the reopening of schools in  this part of the country.  Students indulging in cheating / malpractice – carrying small bits providing gist of answers is also not unheard of – all along, these were considered to be few and far and done by those not considered good.  It places such errant students above those who had worked hard has been a sad reality too.  A couple of months back,  the photo of parents climbing the examination hall walls in Bihar,  like mountaineering experts went  viral !   A daily  screamed ‘in Bihar, this is called reaching Greater heights’ and the photo had its reverberation globally appearing in Telegraph UK and other papers too.  The news ridiculed stating that in olden days, parents came to school to give tiffin boxes and now they climb to pass on chits !  

The National Higher Education Entrance Examination ( NCEE, commonly known as Gaokao)  is an academic examination held annually in People's Republic of China. This examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all higher education institutions at the under-graduate level. It is usually taken by students in their last year of senior high school, although there has been no age restriction since 2001. The overall mark received by the student is generally a weighted sum of their subject marks. The maximum possible mark varies widely from year to year and also varies from province to province.  Held annually, the subjects it tests vary by region, but in many regions it includes: Chinese language and literature;  Mathematics and a Foreign language (often English);  One or more subjects of the student’s choice, depending on their preferred major in college (for example Social Studies/Politics, Physics, History, Biology, or Chemistry)  At some point (it varies by region) students are also asked to list the colleges and universities they prefer in several tiers, and ultimately whether they are accepted or rejected will be determined based on their score. Because of this, students who fail the test and thus cannot attend college will sometimes spend another year studying and re-take the test the following year.

Preparing for and taking the Gaokaois a gruelling ordeal, and students are under huge amounts of pressure from their parents and teachers to do well.  The final year of high school, especially, is often focused intensely on preparation for the exam, and it isn’t unheard of for parents to go so far as quitting their own jobs to help their children study during this year. This pressure has even been linked to some cases of depression and suicide amongst Chinese teens, especially those who perform poorly on the exam.

The test is especially famous for its sometimes-inscrutable essay prompts, which can be vague or confusing but to which students must respond well if they hope to achieve a good score. After the test is over, local essay questions are often published in the newspaper, and occasionally become hotly-debated topics. Because the exam is so important, Chinese society goes to great lengths to facilitate life for the test-takers on testing days. Areas around testing sites are often marked as quiet zones, and nearby construction and even traffic is sometimes halted while students are taking the test to prevent distractions. Police officers, taxi drivers, and other car owners also will often ferry students they see walking the streets to their exam locations for free, to ensure that they are not late for this all-important occasion.

As the Gaokao is so vitally important, there are always students willing to attempt cheating on it, and with modern technology cheating has become a veritable arms race between students, the authorities, and enterprising merchants who offer everything from false erasers and rulers to tiny headsets and cameras connected to off-site helpers using the internet to scan questions and feed you answers. Authorities now often outfit test sites with a variety of signal-blocking electronic devices, but cheating devices of various sorts are still readily available to those foolish or unprepared enough to attempt using them.  The system is also often accused of regional bias.  Since the best schools, both high schools and colleges, are mostly in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, this effectively means that students lucky enough to live in those areas are better-prepared to take the gaokao and are able to enter China’s top universities with a lower score than would be needed by students from other provinces.

In the frenzied build up to this year's gaokao examination, one concerned mother has gone to the extremes of hiring a fungshui expert to rearrange the furniture inside a hotel room she reserved to help channel the energies necessary to bring her son good luck in the upcoming college entrance examination. The mother surnamed Li had booked the hotel room ten days ago. With the hotel manager's approval, she then told the hotel workers to replace the furniture in the room according to her fengshui expert's suggestion. An eight-diagram glass was installed on the door to fend off bad luck. Several items of furniture were moved to different positions in the room. A portrait of Confucius was hung up on the wall and an incense burner and pagoda model were placed on the desk.

Reportedly, a total of 9.42 million Chinese students are to sit  for the 2015 national college entrance this year.  A man who lost both of his arms when he was young has been granted extra time to complete his gaokao.  Peng Chao, from Panzhihua, Sichuan province, had sat the test last June but wasn't able to complete the entire thing, as writing with his feet slows him down. Sichuan officials will now provide Peng with a special desk and chair, and he will be given (an unspecified amount of) extra time so that he can complete his exam.

Central organs covering education, the internet and law enforcement are rolling out their own tests to ensure the exams  not tainted by dishonesty. A campaign has been launched to crack down on the sale of wireless devices frequently used for cheating, improper gaokao-related content online and substitute exam sitters, the Ministry of Education said Tuesday in a statement. After last year's gaokao, more than 80 education officials, teachers, invigilators, students and even parents received punishments ranging from warnings to dismissals in Hubei province, central China.

And in a hi-tech initiative, China resorted to using drones to spy on students trying to cheat in its notoriously tough university entrance exams; the silent-flying drones will hover over students during the exams.  The devices will use 360 degree rotations to scan testing halls and locate suspicious radio signals created by hidden earpieces used to obtain the answers to exam questions.  They can hover in the air for up to half an hour and monitor activity from heights of up to 1,640 feet, according to Chinese news website People’s Daily Online.  Two years ago, education chiefs in Jilin even banned bras with metal clips in a bid to deter students from using increasingly sophisticated cheating technology.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

5th June 2015.

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