Roughly 7,000 high school students have had to retake Laos’ annual college entrance exam after administrators discovered that questions on one part of the test had been leaked and circulated in advance, an official at the university where the exam was administered said on Tuesday.
Exam administrators announced on Sept. 15 that those who took the test on Aug. 11 at the National University of Laos in the capital Vientiane had to retake it on Sept. 20, Somsy Gnophanxay, acting president of the university, told RFA’s Lao Service.
About 16,500 students from all parts of the country took the exam this year.
While checking the exam responses, administrators discovered that more than 100 students who took the social sciences part of the exam at the university had perfect scores, and their answers matched all the questions in the same format, he said.
Administrators then issued a notice requiring all test-takers to resit the exam.
“The students have been required to resit the exam in accordance with the announcement; otherwise, they will forfeit their right to take the exam because this is stated in the exam instructions,” Somsy said.
Though provincial education departments are responsible for handling such problems, test administrators did not receive any complaints from provincial students with regard to the re-examination in Vientiane on Sept. 20 after they issued the notice, he said.
“We realize that this will create a hard time for students after the incident,” Somsy said. “However, we have to acknowledge the problem and resolve it together. Students must be aware of the problem because the questions on the leaked exam are an overall problem for all of them.”
Exam administrators will not pay the costs for students who must retake the exam, he said.
Students complain of unfairness
Some students have argued that it was unfair for the exam committee to order all those who took the test as part of Group B to retake it.
Eu Vou Vou, a student from northwestern Laos’ Xayaboury province, told RFA that she objects to having to retake the exam in Vientiane because she is still waiting for the results from the test she took in August.
She also said traveling to Vientiane is difficult because she lives far from the test center, and she should not have to take the test because she was not involved in the cheating incident.
“How were the exam questions for Group B leaked, and why do we all have to retake the exam?” she said.
“Who is going to pay me for the bus fare and accommodations?” she said. “I think it is unjust.”
Mua Niaj, a student from Borikhamxay province in the middle of the country, said she and her friends had discussed the notice and decided it was unfair for them to have to retake the test, especially since they must stretch their already strapped finances to pay for travel and accommodations in Vientiane.
“As soon as we received the announcement that we had to resit the college entrance exam in Vientiane, my friends and I realized that it would be very difficult for us since we did not have money for the bus and accommodations, and we live far away from Vientiane,” she said.
Some of Mua’s friends told her that their parents did not have enough money to send them back to Vientiane, so they had to borrow it.
Mua said she and her friends believe the university should have provided them accommodations for one night to lighten their financial burden.
Previous cheating scandal
When RFA phoned the university to ask whether it would reimburse students, an official who works in the dean’s office said relevant parties, including the Ministry of Education and Sports, are discussing the issue, but in the meantime, all students had to retake the exam.
In a similar incident last year, the Ministry of Education and Sports suspended a national test for seventh graders across the country scheduled for June 26 after it found that the exam questions had been leaked and students had circulated the answers via social media prior to the test date.
Officials shifted the exam date to June 29 and pledged to conduct an intense investigation of the matter along with the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication and Ministry of Public Security to determine whether anyone from the education ministry was involved.
So far, no report has been issued nor has anyone from the education ministry been implicated in the scandal.
Reported and translated by Lanxang for RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.