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Public outcry over Vietnam exam scandal

Officials arrested for abuse of power after national exam marks were increased for some candidates reporter, Ho Chi Minh City reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

Updated: July 26, 2018 04:03 AM GMT
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Public outcry over Vietnam exam scandal

Candidates discuss tests during Vietnam's national exam in Ho Chi Minh City on June 26. (Photo by Mary Nguyen) 

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Educators and students in Vietnam have accused education officials of working for interest groups after an unprecedented scandal over changing hundreds of national exam results in northern provinces.

State-run Vietnamnet newspaper reported on July 23 that Nguyen Thanh Hoai, head of the testing and quality assurance unit in Ha Giang province, was arrested for "abuse of power or position in performance of official duties."

The newspaper said Hoai was accused of handing keys to the room where candidates' test sheets were stored to his deputy Vu Trong Luong, enabling the latter to increase marks in over 330 test sheets on eight subjects, especially mathematics.

Luong, who was detained on July 20, took two hours to complete the changes.

Test sheets with increased marks belonged to 114 candidates. One is the daughter of Trieu Tai Vinh, party chief of the province.

The newspaper also reported that five education officials from Son La province were accused of violating exam regulations and changing marks in 29 literature test sheets.

The national high school graduation exam is considered a make-or-break event that determines if students can enter a good university.

The national exam requires candidates to undertake mandatory exams in mathematics, literature and a foreign language while choosing between natural sciences (physics, chemistry and biology) and social sciences (history, geography and ethics).

This year, 926,000 high school students in Vietnam took the national exam from June 25-27.

Paul Bui Van Hoang, who teaches mathematics at a high school in Ho Chi Minh City, said the scandal showed rampant corruption and bribery among officials and interest groups.

"Education officials increased scores in test sheets of students at local authorities' request or for their private interests," he said. "It is also a direct result of bad habits of running after scholastic achievements rather than quality of education. Teachers and officials from schools that have good exam results are rewarded."

Hoang said exam fraud is a crime that destroys students' futures and damages public trust in the national exam. "It is terrible that education officials have unfairly treated candidates who really strive to get good results from the exam," he said.

Hoang questioned how the country could develop if relatives of government officials and those with poor performance are allowed to join good colleges and universities.

"I have been in terrible shock for days after I heard the news," said national exam candidate Teresa Trinh Hoai An. "Fairness and honesty should have been top priority during the exam."

An, 18, said she was happy to have enough marks to enter a college of tourism after preparing well for the exam.

She said colleges and universities give admission to candidates based on their marks. "The scandal deprived good students of their chances to enter colleges," she added.

Tran Van Do, a former school inspector from Hai Phong City, said exam fraud could have happened in previous years in many places across the country.

The Ministry of Education and Training should ask localities to remark all test sheets to ensure fairness and true quality of the exam, Do said in a letter to Education Minister Phung Xuan Nha.

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