Drones on patrol and trees on fire: The Gaokao, 2015

By Cinnamon Cornell, June 8, 2015

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The annual "Torturing of China's Youth Festival," also known as the Gaokao exam, kicked off this Sunday - because of course they'd hold it on a weekend. And even by the standards of last year's Gaokao weirdness (remember the James Bond-style cheating gadgets?) this year is off to a very bizarre start.

Last Monday, close to a thousand parents met at a "holy tree" in Anhui Province to burn incense, in the hopes that it would result in good luck for their sons and daughters about to take the exam - and the tree promptly lit on fire, forcing the parents to flee the fury and wrath of the apparently dissatisfied Test Gods.

The Gaokao, with its three primary components of Chinese, math and English, is enough to secure a student's future prosperity or to turn a once hopeful life into a complete catastrophe. China's wealthy, of course, have found a way around it.

According to the Global Times, parents have been caught paying thousands of yuan to have college students take the unbearable exam in place of their children. “In such cases, surrogate exam-takers could earn RMB25,000 [as a bonus] for achieving scores that meet the requirements of first-tier universities and RMB20,000 for second-tiered ones.”

Just yesterday, someone was caught taking the Gaokao under a false name in Jiangxi Province.

“Provincial education authorities discovered the cheating incident and caught the stand-in test taker, often referred to as a ghostwriter in China, before the morning sessions of the exam concluded,” says CRI. The man was caught using a fake ID, with the test taker's name but his picture. CRI says that "the fake IDs were reportedly produced by a local household registry bureau in east China's Shandong Province," meaning that even a local government bureau had succumbed to Gaokao pressures.

Cheating has become a reoccurring issue in the testing rooms, with students coming up with a number of (some would say brilliant) tactics to increase their scores on the exam.

Thankfully, local authorities have spared no expense in hunting down fraudulent test takers - in Luoyang, Henan Province, authorities have released drones to fly above test-taking youth (while they take their exams outdoors) to "search for and identify the location of radio signals, intercepting the cheating students in their tracks,” says Wired.

The drone hovers over the testing site and can send signals directly to a staffer's tablet. From the tablets, staffers can control the drone, directing it to hover over a particular location making it is easier to pinpoint a suspicious test taker.

With drones watching, trees in flames, fake IDs getting confiscated and stressful pits in students' stomachs big enough to hold a 10,000 character essay, one thing is for certain: we should all be damn glad not to be taking the Gaokao this year.

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