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12 people handed sentences in Vietnam’s Son La Province for roles in national exam cheating scandal

Saturday, May 30, 2020, 14:24 GMT+7
12 people handed sentences in Vietnam’s Son La Province for roles in national exam cheating scandal
Judges read a verdict of imprisonment for offenders, who play roles in test-score manipulation in the 2018 National High School Exam, at a court in Son La Province, Vietnam, May 29, 2020. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre

The People’s Court in the northern Vietnamese province of Son La on Friday sentenced 12 people to up to between 30 months of suspended sentence and 21 years in prison each for their roles in a cheating scandal in the 2018 National High School Exam that rocked the nation.

Lo Van Huynh, a former head of testing and quality assurance under the provincial Department of Education and Training, got 21 years in jail — the heaviest sentence among the defendants. 

Nguyen Thi Hong Nga, a former official under Huynh, received 19 years and six months, while Cam Thi Bun Son, a former deputy head of politics and thoughts at the education department, was sentenced to ten years.

All of them were found guilty of abuse of power and taking bribes.

Tran Xuan Yen, a former deputy director of the Son La Department of Education and Training, and Dang Huu Thuy, a former vice-principal of To Hieu High School in the province, were sentenced to nine and eight years, respectively. 

Nguyen Thanh Nhan, a former deputy head of testing and quality assurance under the department, got 30 months behind bars, while Do Khac Hung and Dinh Hai Son, officials from the internal political security division under the provincial Department of Public Security, received a three-year sentence and a 24-month suspended sentence, respectively. 

They were charged with abuse of power.

Lo Van Huynh, former head of the Son La Department of Education and Training’s division for examination and educational quality management, is present at a court for test-score manipulation in the 2018 National High School Exam in Son La Province, Vietnam, May 29, 2020. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre
Lo Van Huynh, former head of the Son La Department of Education and Training’s division for examination and educational quality management, is present at a court for test-score manipulation in the 2018 National High School Exam in Son La Province, Vietnam, May 29, 2020. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre

The court also handed down punishments ranging from 30-month suspended sentences to nine-year imprisonment for giving bribes to Nguyen Minh Khoa, a former deputy head of the internal political security division, Tran Van Dien, a former librarian at Chieng Coi Primary and Junior High School, Hoang Thi Thanh, a former chairman of Quynh Nhai District’s Farmers Association, and Lo Thi Truong, a resident of Son La City.

According to the indictment, the defendants took advantage of their positions and power for self-interest. 

Via relations with family members, friends and colleagues, they colluded to raise the test scores of 44 local students in the 2018 exam.

Their actions were considered serious and had undermined public trust in examinations and teachers, and raised public concern, the judges said.

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.

Tran Xuan Yen, former deputy director of the Son La Department of Education and Training, is present at a court for test-score manipulation in the 2018 National High School Exam in Son La Province, Vietnam, May 29, 2020. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre
Tran Xuan Yen, former deputy director of the Son La Department of Education and Training, is present at a court for test-score manipulation in the 2018 National High School Exam in Son La Province, Vietnam, May 29, 2020. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre

In 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.

When exam results were released in early July 2018, suspicion was quickly raised on whether cheating had occurred as the test scores of some candidates from Ha Giang, Son La, Hoa Binh and Lang Son, all northern provinces, were unusually high.

A police investigation was shortly launched and signs of test-score manipulation were found in three of the provinces, with Lang Son being the only province cleared of suspicion.

Fifteen offenders in Hoa Binh were charged with a combined 50 years and six months in prison this month.

Five people were sentenced to a combined 21 years in prison in Ha Giang in a trial that took place in October 2019.

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