China taps high technology in war on exam cheating

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ID card readers have been in use for years to verify the identity of candidates. Photo: Xinhua

Almost 10 million high school graduates throughout China will sit for the nation’s annual college entrance exam next month. In preparation, educational and public security departments around the country have stepped up efforts to ensure secure printing and delivery of test papers, and to combat organized cheating and the use of high-tech gadgetry being smuggled into exam centers.

Military grade electronic jamming devices are reportedly to be deployed near exam centers in the northeastern Jilin province this year, and local authorities have warned that the exact location of any candidate using phones or pagers to exchange messages during an exam will be swiftly pinpointed as soon as the device is turned on.

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A smartphone and other cheating devices found during a police crackdown during last year’s college entrance exam in Beijing. Photo: Weibo

The central province of Shaanxi has gone a step further with the adoption of iris scan technology, which scans the unique biometric pattern of a candidate’s iris. This theoretically foolproof identification process is claimed to be more secure than facial or fingerprint recognition.

But even this cutting-edge solution has at least one potential weakness, and candidates in Shaanxi are being warned not to wear contact lenses or they will be subject to extra identity checks, according to Xinhua.

In the city of Shaoxing in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, infrared cameras, laser detectors and even bullet-proof windows are among multiple layers of security devised to prevent anyone gaining illicit access to printed examination papers. Local officials claim the measures are so effective that not even the CIA could get to the test papers without triggering an alarm.

Meanwhile, China’s education ministry has made public a list of items banned from being taken into any examination center. The list includes smartphones, walkie-talkies, smartwatches and even implanted chips.

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