Indian students spark IELTS cheating probe after failing to speak English in US court
- Some 900 people are suspected of deceitfully obtaining high IELTS scores this year by paying almost US$18,000 each, the Times of India reported
- Investigation into fake certificate scam found classroom cameras were turned off, while some students had others take their test for them
Police in western India investigating a fake certificate scam linked to English Language Testing System (IELTS) have found the surveillance cameras at some exam centres in Gujarat state were shut down to help students get high scores in the assessments.
The alleged forgery came to light in March when US border officials arrested six Indian students who tried to illegally enter the country from Canada.
The men, aged between 19 and 21, were later produced before a court in the United States where they could not communicate with the judge in English and sought a Hindi translator despite having high IELTS scores.
Of the six, four had managed to get 6.5 to 7 on a nine-point scale, prompting the US consulate general in Mumbai to direct the Gujarat police to probe how the quartet who took the test at a centre in Mehsana district achieved high grades.
The IELTS measures a candidate’s ability across four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. It is used as an English-language requirement for university admissions in several countries.
Police inspector Bhavesh Rathod said the four men took the test at a centre in the town of Navsari last September and travelled to Canada on student visas in March.
“The manager of the banquet hall in Navsari, which was hired for the exam, said supervisors had turned off CCTV cameras before the exam,” Rathod was quoted as saying earlier this week by the PTI news agency. “This proves there was no transparency and something was definitely suspicious.”
The Times of India reported that further inquiry also revealed malpractices, including allowing impostors to sit the exam on behalf of the aspirants, at seven more centres in different parts of Gujarat.
Citing police, it added more than 900 people are suspected to have deceitfully obtained high IELTS scores this year by paying 1.4 million Indian rupees (US$17,700) each.
This is not the first time India’s education sector has been dogged by controversies.
In 2021, hundreds of alumni of Manav Bharti University in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh were left in a state of limbo, as their employers in Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, South Africa, the US and Canada pressured them into proving that their qualifications were real.
The institution allegedly sold as many as 36,000 degrees since it was founded in 2009, for prices ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 rupees (US$1,300-US$3,800), an Indian government agency investigation found last February. Of the 41,000 degrees issued by the university in that time, only 5,000 were found to be genuine.
Raj Kumar Rana, the university’s chairman, was arrested in 2020 in connection with the case, but has since been granted bail.