High School Students in Eastern China to Get Facial Monitoring in Class

2018-05-18
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Chinese students attend class in a classroom equipped with a surveillance camera at a high school in Hangzhou, eastern China's Zhejiang province, May 15, 2018.
Chinese students attend class in a classroom equipped with a surveillance camera at a high school in Hangzhou, eastern China's Zhejiang province, May 15, 2018.
ImagineChina

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang have installed an "all-seeing eye" in a high-school classroom to spot students who aren't paying attention or are falling asleep in class, official media reported.

The new system at the Hangzhou No. 11 High School links up a surveillance camera to facial recognition software that tracks students' movements and facial expressions, according to the Zhejiang Daily newspaper.

The technology is part of a trial of software and surveillance systems that could be rolled out elsewhere as part of the development of "smart campuses," the paper said.

"The system ... can perform statistical analysis on students' behaviors and expressions in the classroom and provide timely feedback on abnormal behaviors," the report said.

Data collected by the system will be analyzed by the software, and overly inattentive or sleepy behavior will generate a prompt to the teacher to admonish the offender, it said.

The data could also be used to evaluate teachers' performance in the classroom.

"This summer vacation, the system will be installed in all classrooms in the Hangzhou No. 11 High School," the report said.

A teacher at the school surnamed Li said the system aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

"Installing this management system is mainly to show kids where they are concentrating the hardest, and where the problems are," Li told RFA on Friday. "It will indicate their levels of concentration in class, and in areas where they're not concentrating, it will make it easier for the teacher to go over sections again."

"It should be very useful for teachers; it's not just about monitoring the students," he said.

Li also said the company that developed the system is installing it free of charge.

"It's a trial, and so it hasn't yet been installed in other schools," he said. "The aim is to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning in the classroom."

"Maybe some kids think that it will be watching them the whole time, but they are maybe making too much out of it, because they will feel pressured, but that's not the point of it," he said.

"It's about getting the children to learn properly the whole time they are in class," he said.

‘Stability maintenance’ potential

But Liu Xinglian, secretary of China Human Rights Observer, said there is the potential for the system to be used as part of China's "stability maintenance" regime.

"This [sort of technology] is being implemented across the country now, whether it be in Hangzhou or [the northwestern region of] Xinjiang," Liu said.  "Chinese people are living in an era where they have no privacy."

"Human rights and human dignity are being trampled underfoot," Liu said. "It's not just the parents who are angry about this; it makes me angry too, sure it does."

Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon said the authorities are using improved standards as a pretext to install surveillance in classrooms.

"This isn't a reasonable explanation, not at all," Poon told RFA. "It shows that in China, the government will use various methods to link people's lives at all levels to a surveillance network."

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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