Hi-tech approach to beat the exam cheats pays off

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am

Early this month, the Beijing headquarters of the national examination authority assembled a control station combining the hi-tech functions of an intelligence service, a space agency and a public security bureau. Looking at giant wall-to-wall screens, officials could monitor in close detail all exam venues in 16 provinces and regions that held the annual national college entrance exam, which took place from June 7 to 9.

Given the fact that the exam tested everything a student has learned from the time he or she was in kindergarten and its outcome could determine the future of their whole life, it is understandable students would try to score top marks by any means, fair or foul. More than 10 million students competed for about 6 million university places. So, to deter cheating, the authority has gone hi-tech. 'Our inspectors can see every part of a venue and track examinees' every move,' an exam official boasted in a press release. There was also real time communication between local officials and their colleagues in Beijing.

Most exam halls across the country were equipped with centralised surveillance cameras connected to Beijing, and systems to track and intercept radio and wireless signals, such as the signal interference device shown in this photo. There were also mobile phone detectors. Security vans were stationed outside some venues to track signals and officers were ready to raid any place suspected of sending out exam answers in the neighbourhood. Due to the revamp of the security system two years ago, the authority said instances of cheating were down to 2.6 cheats per 10,000 students, the lowest in the decade, compared with 3 per 10,000 in past years, according to latest figures.

Hong Kong lags far behind. Or maybe our students are just more honourable. The Examinations and Assessment Authority said it still relied on invigilators during the annual HKCEE and A-Levels public exams.

'We have considered going hi-tech, but in the end we don't think it's appropriate in the Hong Kong context,' an authority spokeswoman said.