Fraud Goes to School in China, Part 3 of 3

October 20, 2010 2:54 pm Last Updated: October 21, 2010 6:43 pm

[xtypo_dropcap]C[/xtypo_dropcap]onfucius, China’s revered educator and philosopher, once said, “If a man cannot be trusted, what is he good for? Like a wagon unconnected to the yoke-bar, or a carriage detached from the collar-bar, how can it move forward?”

The rampant fraud in China’s educational system has led people to worry that it will undermine China’s progress in science and the economy. What has gone wrong, turning a people that values honesty and moral learning into a nation compromised by fraudulence?

“The problem is caused by the system” was the explanation for a case of chain plagiarism (see Part 2 of this series), and this comment has been widely echoed. What kind of “system” has been turning students into cheaters and professors into frauds?

Learning Replaced with Test Scores

China’s education has been test-focused. The national entrance exam is probably the most important test for students, as it will likely determine their fates for the rest of their lives. Not only have they been preparing for it in 12 years of schooling, their parents’ and grandparents’ hopes have all been placed on their good performance on this one exam.

For schools, the national entrance rate to university is the measure by which the educational bureau uses to evaluate their performance. According to an article by Zhang Fang published in “Education and Management,” teachers who meet a certain quota of their students passing the exam will get rewarded. Any means, even illicit, to increase the entrance rate are endorsed by schools.

“The entire education revolves around the entrance exam, and students and their parents put their entire bet on the exam. This deviates from the goal of education, as well as bringing a lot of pressure onto the society,” stated a web forum quoted by the Epoch Times.

This pressure, when channeled by a society permeated with corruption in the government, fraudulence in business, and fake consumer products, leads easily to cheating. In cases of exam cheating as described in Part 1 of this series, students and their parents often collaborate.

Once in college, the emphasis on test scores continues. Cheating worsens on exams that are either for high-stakes or on courses with little consideration for learning. The English qualification exam, for example, is a high-stakes exam as it is mandatory for all college students. Not only that, potential employers may also require certain English scores. The English qualification exam is so commonly cheated on that it is losing its purpose.

Another commonly cheated on exam is Politics, which combines Marxist theory and current affairs. A study at Harbin Polytech shows that 70 percent of the students surveyed cheat on Politics exams.

Nowhere else is Chinese education’s emphasis on conformity better demonstrated than in the Politics course. Students are not required to think critically—in fact critical thinking is dangerous. One only needs to memorize the standard answers to questions such as the meaning of socialist democracy and law, or the achievements of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—the answers themselves are myths or lies. If lies can earn students scores, why wouldn’t students cheat for the same?

Some link the focus on tests with the traditional Confucian examination system of rote learning, neglecting the fact that moral learning is the foundation of Chinese traditional education. Children learned from a young age to apply the “Three Character Classic” and “The Rules for Students” in their daily lives in order to nurture the Confucian virtues of honesty, filial piety, benevolence, etc.

Education in present-day China has lost its moral bearing. Some scholars propose that socialist ethics would help cure the problem of cheating, forgetting that it is the socialism itself, as established by the Communist Party, that has eroded the trust and honesty of the Chinese people due to their experience of its many political movements.

As a college diploma often does not lead to a job, students became less interested in learning. One professor wrote on a blog on china.com that she has assisted in producing many “empty-bellied fake college students,” describing how students cut classes all too often and relied on cheating to pass exams. Responsible teachers are blamed, instead of respected.