Shengliver’s Note: This year’s National Matriculation Test has been all over. Up to now there has been no reporting of cheating and malpractices in the exam on Chinese media. Efforts to clamp down upon irregularities in the NMT have been fruitful obviously, with detectors, screeners and surveillance cams employed at venues across the country. In this entry, which was published in 2007 on the MSN blog, Shengliver shares with the readers a weird happening related to the NMT 2006. What was really going on remains a mystery.


June 7 and June 8 are highlighted on the calendar of many a family in China, who has a son or daughter sitting the National Matriculation Test (NMT), popularly termed the National College Entrance Exam, on the two days. Last year I worked as an invigilator for the NMT in my city. Rules were strictly enforced here and no cheating was reported.


Invigilating the exam was a demanding job. I had to follow the steps on time—when to hand out the papers and when to collect them. In between I had to remain sedentary most of the time in the room. The lunch break was shorter, making a nap after lunch impossible. I was exhausted after working a whole day on June 7 for the exam. Therefore, I didn’t go online in the evening. I went to bed quite early for I had to do the boring but important job the next day. On the evening of June 8, however, I logged into the English learning community where I had been speaking as a volunteer speaker for some time, since the invigilation was over.


I was talking on the public mike when one of my pals sent me a message, asking to chat with me in private on the instant messenger. She said she had extremely urgent business to talk over with me. Let me introduce this pal to you, my dear readers. She is Tehel. I have altered her name to protect her against potential trouble. Tehel is a teacher of English working in a secondary school in Yingkou, Liaoning Province. The mystery which the title of this entry refers to occurred in her city.


After finishing my speaking turn on the mike, I started off chatting with her on the messenger by typing. When she was communicating with me, Tehel expressed her shock and anger over what had happened in her town. The incident unfolded as follows.


On the evening of June 7, a student’s father asked her to help the student do an English paper. Since the student would take the English test the next day, she was glad to give a hand. Anyway she was a teacher of English.


Tehel was horrified when she got the English test paper after the exam on June 8. The questions she helped the student with on the evening of June 7 were exactly the same as those in the official exam. She was incredulous. It was the first time she had ever had such an experience. She was certain SOMEONE had cheated. Later she learned that the same had happened to the other examsthe Chinese exam, the Math exam and the Comprehensive exam. This was CRIMEto steal or to leak the top national secret. The Chinese National Matriculation Test is officially classified as top secret.


When Tehel was telling me all this, I felt her anger, fear and helplessness surging on the other end of the web though I could not see her. She was saddened by the fact that the rich and powerful could still buy their ways into whatever they desired. The NMT is top national secret, and they got it.


I expressed my appreciation for her trust. I asked why she did not report it to the local authorities. She said she was in great fear and that she didn’t know what would happen to her if she turned to them.


Then I promised her that I would take some action. Though a small potato, a NOBODY, I would do something. Her experience shocked me, too. Such cheating constituted crime.


She tried to dissuade me from doing anything about it. She said it would be in vain.


Hardly had I logged off when I dialled a CCTV hotline number, hoping this governmental media giant would take an interest in this matter.


After a few moments I got through. A young guy’s voice came across, loud and clear, in perfect Mandarin.


CCTV, can I help you?”


Yes, indeed. I would like to …”


Before I was done with my narration, the man cut in on me and asked if I was sure what I was saying was true. Then he suggested me calling the Chinese Ministry of Education.


What is the number, sir?” I asked.


En … 8765467.”


I hung up and started ringing the number. Well, what did I hear next?


Sorry, the number you are calling is not in use.”


Damn CCTV! It occurred to me that the guy had not taken me seriously. He must have thought I was mentally ill or something like that. His tone of voice, ringing with scorn and ridicule, came vividly back to my mind.


I was determined to accomplish my mission. After a few attempts on the search engine, I dug out the number of a hotline by which people could report cheating practices in the NMT to the Ministry of Education. And this number I called.


I got through instantly and a mature male voice came over. “Can I help you? This is the Ministry of Education.


I went ahead with what I had heard from Tehel. I informed the man of my location. Actually I was not in Liaoning. I was in Hubei. I told him that my intuition was that the lady had told me the truth, and that she was perfectly sane.


Judging from the way the man responded, it was clear that he took the matter seriously. I bet he was making notes when I was babbling on.


He pledged that they would look into the whole matter as soon as possible. “Thank you, man,” he said before we bade each other farewell.


About a fortnight later, I bumped into Tehel online again. I asked her whether any investigation had been done over there.


Yes, sir. Thanks very much, but the investigators’ effort was to no avail. Nobody came out and told them the truth. The probe might have been closed.”


Did those VIPs come from the Ministry of Education in Beijing?”


No, they were from Shenyang, the provincial authorities.”


Both of us fell silent.


In our next encounter online some months later, Tehel told me that those schools performed extremely well in the National University Entrance Exam that year. An extraordinarily large number of students from the schools concerned were admitted to top Chinese universities.


It is shameful,” she said.


It is dirty,” I responded to her remark.


Well, my dear readers, you might be blaming this friend of mine, Tehel. Why didn’t she have the guts to go and tell the truth to the investigators?


I hope you understand we live in a very complicated world. Tehel and I, both teachers of English, treasure our peace and quiet. You might say we are selfish. We ARE.


Tehel has vanished from my virtual world for good. I have not seen or talked with her for several months. More likely than not, never shall we meet again. God bless Tehel. Your conscience is clear. May you have a sweet dream every night, for Shengliver still remembers you.


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