"We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat," shouted an angry mob gathered to protest a strict crackdown on cheating during China's college entrance examination earlier this month in Zhongxiang, Hubei Province, reported Malcolm Moore in an article for the Telegraph.
While their refrain sounds bizarre to Westerners who tend to see cheating as the antithesis of fairness, in the context of China's education system the protesters seem to have a legitimate grievance.
Cheating is ubiquitous in Chinese schools, according to the Telegraph, and high stakes examinations are the sole determinant of a student's academic fate. "In such a set-up, denying students the right to cheat, well, cheats them out of a fair shot," wrote Moore.
Chinese students devote their final year of high school to gaokao, the nationwide college entrance examination. "In theory, the gaokao is China's great equalizer: A farmer from rural Sichuan has every bit a chance to succeed as does a politician's son in Beijing, no small accomplishment in a country with such income inequality," wrote Matt Schiavenza in a piece for the Atlantic Wire. "But — abuse over the quota system aside — the overwhelming emphasis on examinations is blamed for creating graduates who lack creativity and innovation, both skills the Chinese government hope will spur the country's next phase of economic growth."
"In the meantime, the simple fact remains that, in Chinese schools, you'd almost have to be crazy not to cheat on your tests," wrote Schiavenza at the conclusion of his piece.