A freshman at a prestigious university in Hanoi who was admitted with the best placement score of her class has withdrawn after a shocking exposé that her test scores, as well as dozens of others’, had been altered by insiders in a cheating scandal of unprecedented scale in Vietnam.
T.P.T., a former high school student from the northern province of Hoa Binh, scored an impressive total of 27.75 points out of 30 for history, geography, and literature in the 2018 National High School Examination in Vietnam.
With an additional 0.75 ‘priority’ points added to her total because of her family background, T. was the highest-scoring student to be admitted into the Hanoi National University of Education (HNUE) in the 2018-19 academic year.
When interviewed by journalists at the university’s opening ceremony last September, T. said she was “confident” that her score reflected her true academic ability amidst surfacing suspicions at the time that students from some northern Vietnamese provinces including Hoa Binh had cheated in the exam.
Results of the National High School Examination, held every year around June, are used to determine whether a student qualifies for graduation from high school and acts as a placement test for college and university entrance in Vietnam.
In June 2018, nearly one million candidates took part in the three-day exam, where they sat for tests in math, literature, foreign languages, physics, chemistry, biology, history, geography, and civics.
Suspicion of cheating was raised after exam results were released in early July 2018, with a police investigation that followed uncovering test score manipulation in the three northern provinces of Ha Giang, Son La and Hoa Binh.
T. was among 64 exam takers from Hoa Binh Province who had their scores raised by insiders in the high-profile cheating scandal that sent shockwaves across the nation.
Trinh Tuan Anh, head of academic affairs at HNUE, said on Tuesday the school had received from the provincial education department a list of students whose scores in the national exam were altered.
T.’s real total score before the manipulation was 21.5, which would not have been enough for admission into HNUE, Anh said.
“However, T. had withdrawn from our university before we could take any action,” he added.
Many ‘top students’ at other universities in Hanoi have also been exposed for having their scores raised by up to 26.45 points out of 30 in the 2018 exam.
These students had either been expelled, withdrawn, or refused to enroll in the first place out of fear of being exposed, according to leaders of these institutions, many of which are police and military academies.
More than a dozen people, including education officials and a police officer, have been prosecuted so far in Ha Giang, Son La and Hoa Binh on charges of abusing powers and positions while performing duties for helping to carry out the large-scale test-score manipulation.
“How is it possible that such cheaters were allowed to take courses for nearly a year without being exposed for their unqualified academic abilities?” said Dr. Le Viet Khuyen, a former higher education official under the Ministry of Education and Training.
“Vietnam’s top universities [where this happens] must question their own quality of education,” he said.