Vietnam probes outrageous fraud in national high school exam

By Quynh Trang, Duong Tam, Phan Anh   July 18, 2018 | 04:00 pm PT
The main perpetrator of a high school exam fraud in northern Vietnam has been identified and and a major investigation launched, inspectors say.

The fraud, which has shocked the nation, was centered in the northern province of Ha Giang, where the results of at least 114 candidates were illegally changed to increase scores in individual subjects by as much as 90 percent and that of cumulative scores by more than 17 percent.

Preliminary investigations have found that over 330 test sheets on eight subjects were heavily altered.

Vietnam’s national high school graduation exam is considered to be a make-or-break event for the students, since it determines if they can enter a good university or not.

The national exam requires candidates to undertake mandatory exams in Math, Literature and Foreign Language, while making a choice between Natural Sciences (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) and Social Sciences (History, Geography and Ethics).

This year, the examination lasted for three days, from June 25 to June 27.

Students attending the national high school exam in June 2018. Photo by VnExpress

Students attending the national high school exam in June 2018. Photo by VnExpress

On July 11, the Ministry of Education and Training released the official test results of all candidates nationwide.

In Ha Giang Province, where over 5,400 candidates took part in the examination, the results were unusually good.

Among the 11 candidates with the highest total scores in the nation, three were from Ha Giang. The province also had 65 candidates with scores higher than 9 in Physics on a scale of 10, or 6.7 percent of all students, a figure much higher than in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, which typically record higher scores than other cities and provinces.

In HCMC, the number of candidates with scores higher than 9 in Physics was 39, which is just 0.09 percent of all candidates in the city.

When the public started questioning the results, the education ministry sent a team of inspectors to the province last Saturday. The next day, the team decided to re-grade all multiple-choice test sheets belonging to candidates who took exams in Ha Giang Province.

What did they find? The results of 102 Math, 85 Physics, 56 Chemistry, 8 Biology, 9 History, 3 Geography, three Ethics and 52 English test sheets had been heavily altered.

The kingpin

Further investigations found Vu Trong Luong, Deputy Head of Ha Giang’s Education Department’s Testing and Quality Assurance unit, to be the main perpetrator.

Luong has been in charge of operating scanning machines for several national high school graduation examinations.

“Investigations have found several text messages in Luong’s mobile phone that contained candidates’ identification numbers,” said Nguyen Cao Khuong, an official from the Ministry of Public Security.

On receiving the candidates’ identification numbers, Luong uploaded those numbers and scanned each candidate’s test sheets into a computer, Khuong said.

On June 27, when the education ministry released the official test answers for all subjects, Luong downloaded those answers, processed them in Microsoft Excel, then overwrote them on the candidates’ scanned answer sheets that were already saved on the computer, he explained.

The inspectors also found footage of Luong moving sealed boxes of physical test sheets from their designated secured area to another room. It is reported that within three hours, Luong had unsealed the box, taken out the test sheets and changed their answers.

Not alone

Khuong said it would have been very difficult for Luong to pull off such a feat in such a small time frame alone, although camera footage hasn’t shown anyone else helping him.

“Even the inspection team from the education ministry took eight hours to double-check all the test sheets,” he said.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had asked the ministries of Public Security and Education to cooperate and get to the bottom of the scandal.

An investigation has been launched into the incident that has sparked outrage across the nation.

The education ministry on Wednesday also formed a team to inspect unusually high scores of students in the nearby Son La and Lang Son Provinces.

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