Better Believe It......Because They Actually Happen(ed) Collection 24

How an industry helps Chinese students cheat their way into and through U.S. colleges

CAMPUS CRISIS: A cheating ring at the University of Iowa demonstrates the damage being done by a booming East Asian industry on the U.S. higher education system. Some students hire companies to write application essays, help them game the SAT, and even do their college coursework. REUTERS/Koh Gui Qing

By Koh Gui Qing, Alexandra Harney, Steve Stecklow and James Pomfret

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The advertisements were tailored for Chinese college students far from home, struggling with the English language and an unfamiliar culture.

Coaching services peppered the students with emails and chat messages in Chinese, offering to help foreign students at U.S. colleges do much of the work necessary for a university degree. The companies would author essays for clients. Handle their homework. Even take their exams. All for about a $1,000 a course.

For dozens of Chinese nationals at the University of Iowa, the offers proved irresistible.

“Test-taking services. Paper-writing. Take Online Courses for you,” says the social-messaging profile of one Chinese coaching outfit used by Iowa students, UI International Student Services. A pitch emailed by another business ended with this reassuring claim: “Your friends are all using us.”

Today, the University of Iowa, one of the largest state universities in the American Midwest, says it is investigating at least 30 students suspected of cheating. Three sources familiar with the inquiry say the number under investigation may be two or three times higher.

University spokespeople declined to name the students or comment on their nationality, citing academic privacy laws.

But those familiar with the investigation said that most, perhaps all, of the cheating suspects are Chinese nationals. They stand accused of cheating in online versions of at least three courses, including law and economics. Three of the Chinese suspects admitted to Reuters that they hired Chinese-run outfits to take exams for them.

A May 8 letter sent by the university to a fourth Chinese student, who allegedly had imposters take his midterms for him, says the school will recommend expulsion. “We are unable to be sure that you will not cheat in the future, since your past actions call your future behavior into question,” it reads. Foreigners in the United States on student visas face possible deportation under U.S. immigration law if expelled from school.

Full story at Reuters Investigates (May 2016)

Cash Kao: China’s tutors earn fortunes online

Chinese high school physics tutor Liu Jie gives an online lesson from a recording studio in Beijing on April 26. | AFP-JIJI

BEIJING – With a following of several million teenage fans, China’s Liu Jie says he can earn nearly $50,000 a month from his online videos and is often recognized on the street. But he is no pop star.

A high school physics tutor, Liu belongs to a growing cohort of educators feeding the country’s insatiable demand for after-school online study.

The industry is fueled by the vast number of internet users in China — the most in the world — combined with the annual university entrance exam, a national obsession that decides the fate of millions.

The grueling two-day “gaokao” begins Tuesday, with police set to cordon off streets to ensure silence for students.

“Because the gaokao is such a huge deal in China… that’s where the main demand is,” said Liu, fresh from recording a lecture on static electricity.

Wiry and bespectacled, Liu was a private tutor before he began filming lessons for an online platform that sells them to hungry students.

His page on the platform shows a graduation certificate from China’s top science university, while adverts of him appearing pensive appear elsewhere online.

“Often people recognize me on the street, a parent recognized me just now,” said Liu.

“Students will often pursue a teacher like they pursue celebrities.”

When he reached the limit of 5,000 friends on social media platform Wechat, he added another account that quickly gained 3,000 more, mostly parents and students.

Full story at The Japan Times (June 2016)

High technology tightens gaokao anti-cheating measures

A student goes through a metal detector in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province. [Photo/IC]

By Jin Dan

High-tech measures, such as face recognition and fingerprint verification systems, will be used for the first time in many places for this year's gaokao, or national college entrance exam, which will start within a fortnight, China News Service reported on Wednesday.

Many cheating cases have occurred across the country during the gaokao, an important exam that determines many students' fates. China has listed cheating in the exam as a criminal act in its newly amended Criminal Law effective from Nov 1 last year.

To ensure no cheating occurs this year, provincial authorities of Guangdong and Hubei plans to make use of high technology. Aside from face recognition and fingerprint verification systems, metal detectors and electronic monitoring systems will also be used.

Candidates in Hainan province are required to be checked twice by the hand-held metal monitors under the video surveillance system before they come back to the test room from the toilet during the exam.

Watches are forbidden in the exam rooms in provinces like Fujian, Anhui and Hubei. Instead, silent clocks will be available for students to check the time in every test room.

The education authorities will also make use of technology to secure the safety of the gaokao test papers. The places where the test papers are stored will have at least two cameras installed for surveillance.

Full story at China Daily (May 2016)

Debate erupts in California over curriculum on India's history

By Jennifer Medina

LOS ANGELES: Victors are said to write history. But in California, history is being written by a committee that is at the center of a raging debate over how to tell the story of South Asia as it tries to update textbooks and revise curricula for grades six and seven.

The dispute centers on whether the region that includes modern-day India, Pakistan and Nepal should be referred to as India or as South Asia, to represent the plurality of cultures there — particularly because India was not a nation-state until 1947. It also touches on how the culture of the region is portrayed, including women's role in society and the vestiges of the caste system.

It might seem somewhat arcane. But it has prompted petition drives, a #DontEraseIndia social media campaign and a battle of opinion pieces.

When the committee met earlier this spring, dozens of students turned out at the state Capitol, some in tears, earnestly telling the educators that anything other than India would amount to erasing their heritage.

State educators have also heard debates about the portrayal of so-called comfort women in World War II, the Armenian genocide and discrimination against Sikhs in the United States. But none of the arguments have persisted as strongly as the fight over the Indian subcontinent. That is a reflection of the transformation in California's population, where Asians, including South Asians, are the fastest-growing demographic.

"We have a lot of people engaged in this because we have such a vibrant, diverse state," said Tom Adams, deputy superintendent of the California Department of Education, adding, "What we're really trying to do here is make sure that the children of California have a curriculum that helps them understand all these groups."

But first the committee has to deal with a fight that mirrors similar arguments being made in India, where Hindu nationalist governments have begun overhauls of textbooks in some states.

On one side are advocates from the Hindu American Foundation, which seeks to shape the image of Hinduism in the United States. Backed by some scholars, they want the entire area under dispute to be referred to as India, reflecting what they say is the most important influence in the area.

They also want the caste system to be explained as a phenomenon of the region, not as a Hindu practice — an idea that is not universally accepted in India.

Full story at The Times of India (May 2016)