by Thu Hien
HA NOI — Many people praised a literature test for a recent high-school graduation examination. Students were asked to write a 400-word piece about cheating being a sign of moral degradation in society.
However, the day after the exam, a six-minute video was uploaded on the internet showing invigil-ators blatantly giving answers to students instead of keeping a watch out for cheating. People who saw the video were left speechless. Sadly, it wasn't the first time blatant cheating had been publicised in national examinations.
Six years ago, teacher Do Viet Khoa denounced similar cheating in a Ha Noi high-school. Again, those supposed to be monitoring the students were supplying the answers and supporting their tricks.
Invigilators in schools in northern Bac Ninh and central Nghe An provinces have also been caught red handed handing out the answers to math tests. Frankly, why should anyone put any trust in exam results?
Tran Xuan Nhi, a former deputy minister of Education and Training, said the moral degradation of teachers had popularised cheating by making it profitable. Many education experts agree.
Two weeks ago, police in central Quang Binh Province found more than 10 teachers at one school had used fake degrees to get their jobs. Earlier, a ring of forgers was found making fake degrees for teachers in central Hue City.
To Vietnamese, those who fail to obtain an academic degree will surely become losers with little hope of getting a decent job. Worse, their families will suffer shame for the failure and find their standing in the community is lowered.
According to Education Psychology Association Chairman Nguyen Tung Lam, some companies ask applicants for a bachelor's degree although they are only recruiting for manual positions that require skills and good health. Funny but true. It is why earning a degree is so important in Viet Nam. It's why so many people are prepared to become cheats.
Sadly, cheating becomes sustainable when the teachers are simply removed from their positions with no further punishment. Viet Nam is not alone. Similar cheating was discovered in 44 public schools involving about 178 teachers and principals in Atlanta City in the United States last year.
The only difference was that all those involved in the scandal were dismissed and many were charged with criminal offences. Here, in Viet Nam, there is no record of any cheating teachers ever being taken to court.
Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta called the cheating "a dark day for the Atlanta public school system". How many dark days has Viet Nam experienced?
To me, it becomes a question of what it means to be educated - a high test score or an academic degree? I spent two years studying at an Australian university. There, I had a right to choose the subjects, teachers and even places for studying. My teachers' doors had notes saying: No Gifts, Please. In Australia, my teachers became my companions when I did my field-trip assignments. It was all about a passion for learning, not just for an academic degree.
In Viet Nam, while people still wonder whether to severely punish violators, a leader in the education ministry has suggested fixing cameras in examination rooms to prevent cheating. However, it would be necessary to fix cameras in every corner of a school or even in teachers' houses to prevent all cheating.
However, the Minister of Education and Training Pham Vu Luan said at the beginning of this week that the ministry would analyse the cheating case to draw lessons for the whole education system. But this seems an inadequate response given that a movement to stop cheating in education was launched six years ago by the Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Thien Nhan. Little has happened since then!
To stop cheating, there should be strict punishment for all those involved. Some might say there is no harm in cheating, as demonstrated by the sale of fake luxury bags and dresses to happy consumers.
However, a fake education system is a different thing. It's not a matter of taste. A degree obtained dishonestly will have little value here - and none in another country. The truth will come out. — VNS