Over nine million students filled exam rooms across China yesterday and today to take the most important test of their lives. With such high stakes, some might think to get an edge by cheating, but they would be risking seven years of hard time.
State media helpfully reminded students prior to this year’s gaokao, the all-important university entrance exam in China, that cheaters will be dealt with more harshly than ever before with punishments including jail time (maximum of 7 years in extreme cases) and a three year ban from taking the gaokao again.
This crackdown on exam cheating took effect last November with a widely-publicized amendment to the Chinese Criminal Law Code. Earlier this week, Party mouthpiece the Global Times hailed the new harsher punishments as an important step for social justice:
“Educational authorities believe that by dangling the prospect of a harsh punishment in front of the test-takers, it will safeguard the fairness of the tests, widely seen as an important part of social justice.”
While everyone agrees that cheating is bad, some netizens still think that the punishments are too extreme, noting that a seven-year sentence is basically what a hit and run driver would receive as well, The New York Times reports.
The punishments come in response to rampant cheating on tests in China in recent years. In 2014, students were caught hiring agents to take the gaokao for them, while in more extreme cases, students have been very creative in how they cheat, using techniques normally seen in Cold War era spy movies. This has led some provinces to turn to drones in an attempt to stop the cheating.
This year, the education ministry and police are urging local governments to crackdown on students sneaking wireless devices into the testing centers, as well test-taking proxies. For that purpose, test administrators are bringing in the big guns:
In Beijing, an average of eight police officers have been assigned to each testing center.
With cheating not an option, Chinese students have had to rely on their parents’ prayers and the right fengshui to improve their scores this time around.