China's Solution for Academic Cheating? Drones

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getty images / getty images

The gaokao, China's national college entrance exam, is taken by 10 million students annually. Sometimes called “the world’s toughest exam," the test puts an enormous strain on the students.

Anxiety and fear of failure have pushed many students to desperation, and officials have been looking for extreme ways to combat cheating as it becomes a more serious problem. The newest method? Drones.

Luoyan, a city in the Chinese province of Henan, will be using quadcoptors to monitor testing rooms. These drones can identify radio signals, ostensibly caused by students' unauthorized cheating devices. The information is then sent to the proctor's tablet and, by using a special app, he or she can pinpoint the exact location of the signal.

The idea of drones spying on test-takers may seem extreme, but the cheaters are also using some outlandish devices. Students have been known to wear glasses or use pens embedded with small cameras and have answers fed to them through earpieces. This sounds a lot like an episode of SpongeBob, but it's a real issue.

It's unclear how effective these machines will be, but schools are hoping that their sheer presence will be enough. That said, one can only imagine that the drones hovering overhead will only increase the level of stress experienced by students—and this stress is no laughing matter.

Students (about one in three) are not able to continue their educations if they do not succeed on the two-day test. Cram schools are extremely prevalent and the teen suicide rate in China rises as the test approaches. One school even went as far as to fence in the upper balconies to prevent students from throwing themselves off.

Fortunately, there has been a movement to address the problem of student stress. Curriculums are being broadened to more than core classes and universities are encouraged to look at factors besides entrance exam scores.

In the meantime, though, some students will still have to find a way to ignore those buzzing drones overhead.