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China steps up crack down on hi-tech exam cheats

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The Chinese ministry of education has been forced to update its rules prohibiting cheating in college entrance exams to take account of the increasingly ingenious hi-tech methods used by desperate students and their parents to succeed in the hugely important exams.

State-run news agency Xinhua said the government made 15 additional points on its lengthy anti-cheating rule list to deal with “new circumstances, problems, technology and rampant mass cheating".

The updates explicitly ban students from taking in any equipment “capable of sending or receiving signals”, whereas previously it only forbade mobile phones, the report said.

To enforce the rules, some local exam centres have been forced to install airport-style metal detectors, video surveillance equipment and signal blocking technologies, and Public Security Bureau officials have even been called in to make sure everything is done by the book.

The annual National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), or gaokao, is the largest standardised test of its kind in the world and can be a life-changing event for some students, persuading the more morally ambiguous ones to invest in technology to gain an unfair advantage.

As a result, the crackdown on exam cheats is an annual affair these days, with state-run media dutifully reporting any arrests of those caught selling technology which could help students, such as matchstick-thin wireless earphones.

According to a Xinhua report last year, even teachers were caught selling the devices in 2009 in the city of Songyuan.

The clampdown seems to be having the desired effect, however, with the news agency reporting an overall drop in the number of cheating violations for five consecutive years. ®

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