High school exam scandal: $20,000 for a good score

By Pham Du   July 12, 2019 | 04:00 pm PT
High school exam scandal: $20,000 for a good score
Students study for the high school graduation exam in Ho Chi Minh City, June 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Vietnam’s 2018 exam scandal probe has seen eight officials charged for accepting huge sums to improve students’ grades.

The eight officials in the northern Son La Province are awaiting trial for abuse of power after they took money or agreed to take money to raise grades for 44 students in last year’s national high school exam.

Nguyen Thi Hong Nga, a testing specialist, Cam Thi Bun Son, a senior advisor to Son La Department of Education and Training, Lo Van Huynh, deputy head of the testing division of the department, and Dang Huu Thuy, a former high school vice principal, had accepted money to raise the grades of certain students, provincial prosecutors said.

Nga received over VND1 billion ($43,000) to raise the grades of four students. She has handed over the money to the authorities, but the students’ families have denied they had given any money to her.

Huynh received VND1 billion from an unidentified local man to raise the grades for two students. He also received another VND300 million ($12,900) for one student but the money has since been returned to the bribe giver. Prosecutors said he raised the grades for two other students and, with accomplices, changed the grades of science tests for 32 students and "influenced" the grades for 12 others in literature.

Thuy received VND500 million ($21,500) to raise the grades of four students, but the money has since been returned to the bribe givers.

Son received VND440 million ($19,000) to change the grades of one student.

Prosecutors said the defendants handing over the money they first accepted or admitting that they had accepted money was not enough evidence to charge them with bribery.

Four other education officials accepted requests to raise the grades of certain students, but had yet to receive any money.

27 parents have admitted that they had requested knowing their children’s grades ahead of time, but denied exchanging or promising any material benefit to the people being charged.

The Son La scandal was part of a massive national high school exam fraud that also involves violations in the nearby Ha Giang and Hoa Binh Provinces, after authorities found that their exam results were unusually high.

Investigations revealed over 200 students taking their exams in the three provinces had had their results altered. 44 of them were from Son La.

Numerous officials have been arrested or disciplined for their involvement in the exam fraud, the largest ever exposed in Vietnam, where high school exams are considered by many families the most stressful event of year as their results usually decide their children's career and future paths.

Dozens of students from top universities have been expelled or have voluntarily dropped out after their scores were corrected. In the wake of the scandal, several other students told VnExpress that it could have deprived them of opportunities to enter better universities.

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