China weaves surveillance net to curb exam cheating

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As millions of students gear up for the national college entrance exam, Chinese authorities are waging war on cheating by building an electronic surveillance network and conducting security checks on students arriving for the exams.

In final preparations for the college entrance exam slated for June 7 and 8, the government in Songyuan in northeastern Jilin Province has installed more than 800 cameras to monitor those taking tests in the city's 650 exam halls.

Songyuan had been in the spotlight following a series of exam cheating scandals last year, with 34 suspects detained for allegedly selling hi-tech devices to students to help them cheat during the make-or-break matriculation in June.

According to the Ministry of Education, 25 of the country's 31 provincial-level regions have set up inspection systems to monitor the exam venues on remote screens.

Telecommunications departments across the country will also send staff and equipment to help with the monitoring, the ministry said.

In northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the staff monitoring students taking the tests will, for the first time, use metal detectors to check each student for electronic devices that might be used in cheating.

Further, the Ningxia regional exam institute said in a statement that the region was obliged to take steps to "combat high-tech cheating devices as modern communication technologies enable fast and convenient information transfers which are difficult to control."

In central China's Hunan Province, all exam halls will be covered by wireless network signal jammers while local police and wireless electricity departments will use wireless vehicle tracking equipment in the surrounding areas to seek out suspected signals.

In Fuzhou, capital city of southeast China's Fujian Province, workers of the provincial information bureau conducted a simulation drill on Friday to test suspected signals for use in cheating.

In central China's Hubei Province, the government equipped each exam hall with a clock and students will be banned from bringing mobile phones and watches into the hall during the test.

In east China's Shandong Province, the government will even provide stationery for students during the exam to prevent them from bringing any cheating device into the venue.

Dai Jiagan, director of the Education Ministry's exam center, said beginning in May the center began sending inspection groups to Henan, Anhui, Hunan, Hubei, Guangxi, Qinghai, Shandong and Jilin to supervise preparations for the annual test.

According to officials, local authorities are "well prepared technologically to curb cheating to the maximum extent," he said.

About 9.57 million high school students have registered to take the exam on June 7 and 8 this year, a slight decrease from last year.

Ministry of Education officials note that more than 68 percent of these students will be accepted into college, an increase of 7 percent over last year.

In a country where a college diploma can help secure a superior job, the annual college entrance test is considered decisive in determining a student's future career opportunities. As a result, the test has been repeatedly tainted by cheating scandals in the past.

A total of 2,219 candidates, or 0.023 percent of the 10.2 million students taking the college entrance exam, were discovered cheating last year, figures from the ministry indicated.

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