Japan rattled by exam cheat
Tokyo - Japan is engaging in soul-searching after police arrested a 19-year-old accused of cheating on a prestigious university's entrance examination by using his mobile phone to post questions on a popular online forum and get outside help.
The brazen nature of the alleged offense and its use of new technology has shocked many in Japan, which takes pride in its culture prizing honesty and hard work.
It also raised questions over whether the country's top universities - the gateway to top jobs in Japan's corporate culture - have adapted to the internet's new opportunities for cheating.
The arrest of the student taking the Kyoto University exam was the top story in major newspapers on Friday and on TV news shows. Japanese media say he could become the first person to be prosecuted in the country for cheating.
"It's not a mere cheating case," an editorial in the nationwide Mainichi newspaper said. "The impact of the wrongful use of internet capable of massively spreading information instantly."
Police said they arrested the student on Thursday on suspicion that he obstructed business through fraudulence. If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison or a fine of $6 000.
His name has been withheld because he is a minor under Japanese law, and he hasn't been officially charged.
The suspect admitted to the wrongdoing, and will be sent to prosecutors on Saturday, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity citing department rules.
Police also suspect that he also used similar cheating tactics at three other top universities - Doshisha, Waseda and Rikkyo.
Admission to Japan's top universities, seen as a requirement to a good job in government or business, is determined by applicants' performance on gruelling entrance examinations, and young people face enormous pressure preparing for them.
Many high school graduates who fail to get into their school of choice cram full-time for a full year for another shot.
The suspect is accused of turning to a popular question-and-answer site run by Yahoo Japan for help during a test. His alleged postings from February 25-26, the exam days at Kyoto University, are still viewable online.
In one, he asks for help translating a Japanese passage into English and ends with an apology for posting such a long question. Various answers were then posted throughout the day. Other postings ask for help with math problems.
The case has some wondering whether the nation's venerable colleges are keeping up with modern technology. At Kyoto University, test takers must switch off their mobile phones and keep them in their bags.
New measures planned
But many students take the test at the same time, and modern phones can quickly scan in long chunks of Japanese text through their cameras.
"Entrance exams should be strictly impartial, and that such an incident could have occurred has spread alarm to the applicants as well as society, and is highly regrettable," wrote Kyoto University President Hiroshi Matsumoto in a message posted online.
He said that the school planned to implement new measures to insure a fair testing process during the ongoing tests, the results of which are to be announced next week.
"Supervision is very important. Universities have always been aware of this, but especially because this case occurred, they should proceed properly," said Yoshiaki Takaki, head of the education ministry, told reporters on Friday.