When exam time comes around in Uzbekistan it is open season on the cheats. And anti-cheat measures have reached a new pitch of intensity this year.
Footage doing the rounds online this week shows young people sitting an entrance test for a financial studies institute getting physical sweeps from officers with the customs service checking for hidden crib sheets.
One institute employee can be heard saying through a megaphone: “Crib sheets, money and other items must be handed over. Otherwise employees with the customs control service will expel you from the exam hall.”
The reaction of those watching the videos has been largely one of disgust at the humiliating routines as students are forced to remove items of clothing and undergo body searches. One girl apparently caught with a crib sheet is filmed as she tearfully undergoes a dressing-down.
“It would be better if they were out catching criminals, these poor children. What a disgrace. I was livid when my daughter had to go through this,” one mother, Venera Galeyeva, wrote on social media.
Despite the strict rules forbidding exam-takers from bringing in dictionaries, notes, crib-sheets and cellphones into the hall, countless people have over the years taken the risk just for the sake of getting an edge.
In previous years, Uzbekistan has drastic measures to quash college admission exam cheats, such as ordering cellphone companies to disable some of their services temporarily.
But the real crooked behavior takes place outside the exam hall. Students with access to cash will simply bribe their way into their desired institute. Medical colleges are the most expensive.
In July, police in Tashkent detained the head specialist at the Information Resources Center in the Tashkent Institute of Railway Transportation Engineers on suspicion of taking an $8,000 bribe in exchange for guaranteeing a spot for a student.
Competition for places in higher education institutes is fierce. According to the national testing center, Uzbekistan’s universities and institutes have received 729,950 applications this year — a new record. That translates into one place per 11 applicants.