The Ministry of Education is calling on Chinese universities to retest student athletes' sports abilities following suspected abuse of athletic certificates for bonus points in the gaokao, the national college entrance exam.
To review students' qualifications for extra points in their gaokao results under a preferential scoring policy for students with special talents, universities are required to reassess the sports skills of students with athletic achievement certificates beginning this autumn, the ministry said on Tuesday. Those who fail the test will be considered to have cheated in acquiring their certificate, it said.
Local education authorities are also required to organize experts to review the performance of student athletes who are suspected of forging certificates, and those who are proved to be cheaters will be refused admission, the ministry said.
"To guarantee fairness and transparency in college admission, we adopt a 'zero-tolerance' attitude toward any attempts to cheat for favorable scoring policies. We will also cooperate with public security departments to fight against certificate counterfeits that constitute crimes," said Xu Mei, spokeswoman for the ministry, on Monday.
The measures were announced after questions arose concerning groups of students in Liaoning and Henan provinces who received bonus points with national-level athletic certificates.
Eighty-seven out of more than 1,000 graduates from Benxi Senior Middle School in Liaoning who took the gaokao in June received 10 extra points with the certificates. Many observers viewed that number as suspiciously high - roughly equal to the total of 89 certificates issued to students in another five cities in Liaoning combined.
Student athletes' qualifications also were questioned in Luohe, Henan province, where 41 out of the 74 students who were given additional points from Luohe Senior High School were found to have acquired wushu (martial arts) national-level certificates based on their results at a local youth tournament in 2013.
However, the local sports bureau won't organize actual tests to examine students' skills before issuing certificates based on documents provided by students and families, said Xu Hong, director of the competition and youth department of the Luohe Sports Bureau.
According to Gong Jifeng, an official with the Luohe school's admissions office, the education bureau will not host skills tests, either, because sports authorities are supposed to guarantee the certificates' legitimacy.
Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said: "There is a possibility for manipulation of score-adding qualification here without sound supervision and open tests. Operation of the preferential scoring policy itself has to be better regulated, with stricter rules and transparency to limit the power of local educational administrative authorities and potential cheats."
According to Xu, the Ministry of Education spokeswoman, the ministry is considering tightening up the policy that awards extra points, not only for students with exceptional sports abilities but also for those with talents in arts and sciences. It also will reduce the number of slots for such students and limit the events that entitle them to bonus points, starting with this year's college admission period.