Vietnam ministry lifts ban on publicizing evidence of exam cheats

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Vietnam 's education ministry has modified its new regulation on reporting cheating in school exams after it was criticized for discouraging whistleblowers, news reports have said.

Under its latest circular on the 2013 high school graduation exam, the ministry removed the ban on presenting evidence of cheating to anyone other than the exam's managing committees.

The circular was slated to take effect on April 15, while the exam will be organized nationwide on June 4-6.

According to an earlier ministry circular issued late last month, people were supposed to inform the authorities of cheats "immediately" after the exam, and were not allowed to spread related information to others by any means.

Whistleblowers were to be punished if they violated the regulations.

However, soon after the ministry announced the circular, it drew criticism from educators and lawyers.

Speaking to Thanh Nien, Van Nhu Cuong, principal of Luong The Vinh High School in Hanoi, called the ban "contradictory."

He said that on one hand, the ministry allows students to carry cameras with them into exam rooms to record and expose cheats. But on the other hand, students are not allowed to submit evidence of cheating to anyone other than managing committees.

If whistleblowers present evidence to the committees only, instead of the press or other agencies, it would be an "ineffective" measure in the fight against corruption, Cuong said.

Previously, in an interview with the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper, Do Viet Khoa, a geography teacher in Hanoi known for exposing incidents of cheating on the exam, agreed that the ban contradicts the ministry's stated aim of curtailing cheating.

The ban would help the ministry hide corruption within the field, he said.

Meanwhile, lawyer Vu Tien Vinh, director of Bao An Law Firm in Hanoi, was quoted by news websitenVnExpress as saying that the ban failed to encourage people to become whistleblowers.

It was also "wrong" because under the law pertaining to whistle-blowing, people have the right to inform any agency with authority of wrongdoings, not merely the related managing agencies, he stressed.

The lawyer pointed out that the laws do not stipulate at which time people must expose wrongdoings, even though it is understandable that the ministry demanded cheating be reported immediately following the exam, to avoid distracting students during the exam.

Due to its lack of consideration for relevant laws and its "unsuitable" approach to the situation, the ministry's ban has caused a public stir, Vinh said. 

Exposing those who cheat on exams has been a hot topic in Vietnam since June of last year when two students posted 12 videos online showing other students cheating on a graduation exam at Doi Ngo High School in the northern province of Bac Giang.

The videos showed students in exam rooms freely exchanging answers or copying them from cheat sheets provided by the school's teachers and exam proctors.

Following the scandal, 42 officials and teachers in Bac Giang were punished, while the education ministry adjusted its regulations to allow students to bring video recording devices into exam rooms to catch cheaters. 

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