Lao Education Officials Investigate Examination Cheating Incident

laos-education-ministry-undated-photo.jpg The entrance to the Ministry of Education and Sports in Vientiane in an undated photo.

Some secondary school students in Lao are suspected of cheating on their final exams after a copy of the nationwide test was posted on social media, although the country’s education officials so far have denied that any tests had been leaked.

A high-ranking education official, who declined to be identified, told RFA’s Lao Service that relevant officials were investigating the incident.

“The final exam did not leak out,” he said. “A group of people staged the event to cause trouble. In the meantime, the relevant officials are investigating those who were behind the incident.”

“This is a nationwide final exam and we must make sure the exam is transparent,” he said. “We cannot confirm if the rumor is true or not, because we have to wait until we get the facts, and then we will inform the public later.”

Nevertheless, officials postponed the exam last month for several days, but said it was because of delays with deliveries to test centers.

The incident became public after a Facebook user posted one of the exams, said to be a copy of the one that 7th grade students were taking throughout the country, on June 26.

But one secondary student, who declined to be named, told RFA that in addition to the exams for history and math that were leaked on June 26, tests for other subjects had been leaked on June 23, the first day of the exam period.  

Some parents of secondary students said they believed the exam was leaked via social media so their sons and daughters could cheat.

One father, who declined to be named, said it was unavoidable that the final exam had been leaked, because some officials pressure their children to get high scores on the test.

“But the problem is that when one student gets the exam, it can be shared with others,” he told RFA.

He said his children told him that their friends collected money to pay their teachers for a copy of the final exam with the answers.

He also said he didn’t believe the explanation that education officials postponed the test date because the delivery of the exams had been delayed, and some exam centers were too far away to get the tests in time.

“What they said is groundless and an excuse,” he said. “They do not accept they are at fault. The fact is that the exam paper leaked out.”

Another father, who denied to be named, said he was not surprised by the cheating.

“It routinely occurred during the previous school year, but the information was not shared as widely as it was this time,” he said.

He said cheating was a minor issue compared to large-scale corruption by high-ranking Lao officials.

“Although the cheating has not caused any monetary losses as does with the construction of big buildings, high-speed railways and dams, the morality of those involved has significantly decreased,” he said. “Therefore, Laos needs to urgently improve morality among students.”

Such reports of cheating and bribery underscore Laos’s reputation, highlighted in the 2014 report by Berlin-based Transparency International, for widespread corruption in the public sector. The report, which ranks countries based on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be, placed Laos at 145 out of 175 nations tracked.

Reported by Bounchanh Mouangkham for RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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