Technology is playing a new role in the nationwide exams for a new generation of high school graduates in the mainland — in cheating and in its prevention.
The gaokao, the two-day National Higher Education Entrance Examination being held on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, is labeled as the last fair competition of their lifetime for more than 9.4 million students.
Mainland media reports say many exam centers in Guangzhou, Hebei and Hubei provinces are using advanced technology for facial and fingerprint recognition to verify the identity of students.
It is a common practice (with a long history, starting in ancient China) for students in the mainland to hire professional test-takers for public exams.
Some students may decide using the dominant search engine Baidu (not Google, which is banned in China) is cheaper and better than hiring top talent, so one challenge for the authorities is to prevent students from cheating using devices such as smartphones.
In Jiangxi province, some exam centers reportedly installed metal detectors and blocked Bluetooth data transfers to make sure students cannot beat the system in spite of heavy surveillance.
To ensure fairness, Beijing got its top public security unit to guard the exam papers from printing to delivery.
Students from the same school district cannot sit together, nor will they be supervised by invigilators familiar to them.
Without a little help from their phones and friends, students can only rely on their parents for comfort at the end of the day.
As there are nearly 10 million students sitting the exams, there are at least 10 million anxious parents patiently waiting outside the centers where theIR children are held incommunicado from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In Tier 1 cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, special traffic arrangements are made for these two special days.
This year, students got a brief online pep talk from Professor Stephen Hawking, whose inspiring message, posted on Facebook and Weibo, became an instant hit.
“As many of you prepare to take the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, I want to wish you, the next generation of scientific minds, success in your academic endeavors,” the world-renowned cosmologist wrote.
“This culmination of your hard work marks just the beginning of your very bright futures.
“Growing up, my parents placed a high value on education, and I am grateful for the limitless opportunities provided by my studies.
“Whether you aim to be a doctor, teacher, scientist, musician, engineer or a writer — be fearless in the pursuit of your aspirations.
“You are the next generation of big thinkers and thought leaders that will shape the future for generations to come.”
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