Thor's China Diary

Corruption in Chinese University

English Examinations

@19 April 2000

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 The note below was contributed by a reader of Thor's China Diary, and in particular the piece called "In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king". The writer is another recent expatriate teacher from Chinese universities whose indictment of corruption in the Chinese education system stems from personal knowledge. The author wishes to remain anonymous so as not to compromise those who enlightened him. To be fair, at least one Chinese lecturer to whom I showed this material expressed disbelief. She was sure it couldn't happen in her institution. When we discussed things further she agreed that even professionals like herself very often had little knowledge of what was happening in the rest of China, nor for that matter in their own city.

" I spent a couple of years teaching at another Wuhan university, finally deciding to take a break from it all last spring.  For the past several months, I've been reading your China journal.  I always like to see what others see there, and I'm glad you're not one of the lao wai who sits around moping about lack of coffee or scarcity of cheese.

"I just finished reading your entry about the bribery and guanxi used to get students into college.  Unfortunately, you are absolutely right on those details.  Something that was explained to me by one of my students (in confidence, of course.  Nothing 'unpleasant' is told in public!) was the system of those so-important Band4, 6, and 8 English exams. I had tried hard to take the Band 6 exam with my students.  I knew that it would not be counted as some official score for me, but I wanted to see what the actual test even looked like and observe 'my kids' while they took the exam.  Everywhere I tried to get help in signing up for the test, I got flatly refused.

"There are 2 reasons why the foreign English teacher is never allowed to supervise or be present during these exams:

"1) Many of the students pay SOMEBODY ELSE to take the exam for them!  Sure, they can't get into the testing room without a photo-ID, but who is going to take the time to look too closely at several hundred student-ID cards, all of which are blurred, out-of-focus shots taken of a black-haired, dark-eyed student several years ago when he/she was just entering college?  Some of the upperclassmen who have already taken the exam and did well make
some extra pocket money by being a 'testing double' for the rich kid with poor grades.

"2) If the English exam is taken in the regular teacher's classroom, the teacher will often look the other way or conveniently take a stroll out into the hallway to chat with another teacher during the exam so the students can openly cheat.  If all of the students do well on the exam, then that English teacher is obviously some gifted teacher and will get some kind of praise,
honor, or (hopefully) a raise!

"It is well-known that the foreign teachers don't play by these same rules and wouldn't allow the unashamed cheating that goes on.  Then the class grades would be lower, the department would look like it isn't teaching them anything, the school would look bad, etc.  I wasn't the only foreign teacher in Wuhan who would have students drop in unexpectedly (with gifts) around final exam time.  I'm proud to say that I wasn't corrupted and still failed a couple of students whether they tried to bribe me or not!

"It makes me sad that some of my friends (former students) really are smart and really do study hard to get honest grades, only to get the same results as their dishonest classmates.  It makes them feel even worse, knowing that this is life and what can they do about it?

"Keep the entries coming!"

"Corruption in Chinese University English examinations" copyrighted to Thor May 2000; all rights reserved
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