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Chinese city using drones to nab cheaters on all-important exam

Buses carry students to a school to take China’s college entrance examination on June 5, 2013, as their families see them off. (REUTERS/China Daily)
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Officials in one Chinese city are “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or drones, to nab cheaters on the all-important university admissions test taken by more than 9 million students each year across the country.

People’s Daily Online wrote that authorities in central China’s Luoyang City are using drones during the administration of university entrance exams, gaokao. The score on this exam, usually given in June, is the only measure that most Chinese institutions of higher education use to admit students.

The system has put so much pressure on students and their families that in September 2014, the Education Ministry said that it planned to make changes to the exam as well as the college entrance system by 2020 in an effort to reduce anxiety and make the process more transparent.

According to Chinese news reports, students are known to cheat on these university admissions exams by using a special pen that can take pictures of questions and transmit them to someone who relays the answers via ear phone. According to a Google translation of the People’s Daily Online story, the “unmanned aerial vehicles” can identify radio signals that emanate from the hidden earpieces. The drone transmits real-time information to test proctors with tablets on the ground.

An article in said that the Education Ministry this week released a statement announcing a crackdown on cheating. The article said that during last year’s season of university admissions testing, “more than 80 education officials, teachers, invigilators, students and even parents received punishments ranging from warnings to dismissals in Hubei province, central China,” for cheating.

It also said that security this year will involve the ministries of education, public security and national security, the State Internet Information Office, the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets, the Supreme People’s Court, and the police. And it quoted the Education Ministry statement as saying:

“Local education officials directly related to the exam should understand that it’s their duty to ensure discipline and will suffer the consequences should they be implicated in malpractice.”

An official statement released in 2014 by the state-run Xinhua news agency said that the plan to change the exam and the college recruitment system will center “on better selection of students based on their actual skills and talents.”