I was about to copy and paste this great article and a picture from KXNews (owned by CBS), but luckily, I was coming from the bottom and I saw this italicized:
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
So I’ll tell you what I know instead.
China has a super long history of meritocracy going back to Confucius (and Mozi) (~200 BC) – by taking exams. Children from poor families/areas can rise in prestige for themselves, their parents, and their regions if they pass the exams. Back then, they didn’t have school exams, regular schooling and school houses in every area, and insufficient teachers. Money to pay the teacher and bamboo scrolls (books came later) was a deep investment for a bright child in a poor neighborhood of farmers. The neighborhood would gather and deem which child was smart enough for education – most if not always was a boy – the whole neighborhood would pay for it until he was old enough to take the county exams (for a local government position). (Back then, there were no school exams as schooling was irregular.) Once you passed the county-level, you could try the provincial exams for a provincial position. Lastly, if you passed that, you could try for the state-level exams. There were no limits if you failed; you could keep taking those exams until you passed.
But back then, the county-level was good enough for the poor, that was enough prestige for the area and pretty much all they could afford. With that guy in government, he could get favorable things done in his hometown, like pork barrel funds in the U.S. He could also make a lot of money and get out of farming. So social mobility was possible for poor farmers in China, unlike feudal England.
The rich, however, had parents who could easily afford teachers for their children’s (all sons, very few daughters) education required for county-level exams and beyond. If the parents are already government employees, they have connections for test questions, bribe the graders or use “friendly suggestions” when grading their children’s exams, and use their influence in other ways. Once their children pass, they can get them in a high-paying or easy position by pulling strings.
Chinese College Entrance Exams:
- They determine which tier of colleges you can enter
- The higher you score, the better tier of colleges you can attend. If you score really high, you get prestige of scoring that high, attending a university at that tier, and your parents get credit for for your success. It’s like getting into an Ivy League school in the U.S.
- They last 2-3 days and are very hard (you memorize a lot of content)
- If you fail, you are usually left doing a blue-collar job, something looked down upon in China and Chinese culture
- If you are caught cheating, you can be barred from retaking the test for up to three years
- They’re held at certain test centers and most parents travel with their child(ren) for the event and wait for them
With the stakes so high, you can see why cheating is such an issue.
Here’s what cheaters have tried:
- Writing answers on erasers
- Paying someone else to take your place (fake ID and all)
- Buying supposed test answers to study from
- Sending wireless signals to get answers
Here’s the government’s response (corresponds):
- Confiscate students’ erasers and they must use government-issued ones
- Check ID and other documents to make sure they are who they are
- Whatever the results, it’s on you
- Use drones that can detect those signals
Anyway, they hold test at certain test centers and the students’ parents travel with them.