10.7 million students in China are taking the most important test they will take in their academic lifetime: the Gaokao. The test, which was postponed a month due to the coronavirus pandemic, was recently rocked by a cheating scandal.
Chinese authorities have punished about a dozen officials and school teachers in the eastern province of Shandong over a college testing scandal that has sparked a national uproar and raised doubts about the fairness of the country’s revered college entrance system.
The Shandong branch of China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced the punishment of the officials and school administrators Monday night in relation to two separate incidents. One involved the theft of the identity of a student who scored well on the exam to help another who had failed to get into university, according to the agency.
Gaokao is the most important test a Chinese student will take in their academic lifetime. Unlike university applications in other countries that use a range of metrics to evaluate students, the Gaokao score singularly determines the college that a Chinese student attends and in turn significantly affects their job prospects. Tens of millions of students participate in the exam each year.
The Shandong scandal, first reported by some Chinese newspapers including The Paper earlier this month, has been making waves on social media and drawn widespread indignation from the legions of netizens in the country. The Southern Metropolis Daily said this month that based on publicly available information, there had been a total of 242 student identity theft cases in 14 universities in Shandong between 2002 and 2009.
The hashtag “242 people in Shandong stole identity to get diploma” (#山东242人冒名顶替取得学历) has been viewed 590 million times on China’s microblogging site Weibo, while the hashtag “Shandong makes public two school identity replacement cases” has received 36 million views.
“A nationwide investigation is needed,” said Weibo user @wudukuaimen. “Corruption is a serious problem in the education system.”
Shandong authorities said they have launched another investigation in reaction to the report about the 242 cases. Based on a preliminary probe, most of the cases occurred between 1999 and 2006, the statement said.
In one of the cases unveiled on Monday, Chen Yanping stole the identity of Chen Chunxiu in 2004 and was enrolled in the Shandong University of Technology. After graduation in 2007, Chen Yanping obtained a job at the local government in the city of Liaocheng. Chen Chunxiu ended up being a migrant worker for years and is currently working as a kindergarten teacher.
“It’s an extremely terrible thing and I am so angry and disappointed,” said Li Jingtao, a 49-year-old court judge in Shandong, referring to the scandal. It “exposed a dirty chain in our government, from high schools to universities, and the education department to police managing citizens’ identities.”
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