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Top image credit: The Bangkok Post

When a picture of anti-cheating hats in Anhui, China surfaced yesterday, it came as a shock to many. Internet users across social media commented that it was “humiliating” and that students “look silly.”

Yet for anyone familiar with China’s gaokao, its National Higher Education Entrance Examination, known also as National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), this should come as no surprise. After all, China has been refining its methods of preventing cheating for years.

What’s surprising is that China is not in fact the first country to make use of anti-cheating hats. As far back as 2013, it was reported that Kasetart University in Thailand had employed this method. What’s funny is that it was a suggestion that actually came from the students themselves. Unfortunately, when a photograph of the students in all their paper hat finery went viral, a press conference had to be called by the university dean himself to apologise and explain the incident.

It was an agreement between us. No student was forced to wear a hat. Instead, all were happy to do so and thought it was fun. They felt more relaxed during the test,” the dean had said.

In 2010, a picture mysteriously titled 'Undivided attention' surfaced on the internet. Was this the spiritual mother of all subsequent cheating hats?

In a separate examination hall, Thailand’s Civil Aviation Centre stepped up its use of this method by fashioning a paper helmet of sorts to keep students honest. According to the Bangkok Post, cheating tends to be most common in, ironically, its police and teaching exams.

As for what happened in Anhui, our guess is that, in the manner of its fake luxury goods manufacturing, China’s schools have simply engineered a more economical version with the use of newspapers.

That said, we do wonder if such anti-cheating mechanisms in fact help students to perform better. After all, blocking out any kind of movement or stimulus on a student’s visual periphery forces them to focus on what’s in front of them. No longer do they have to worry about snickering classmates or their crush distracting them from fulfilling their ambitions of becoming useful, tax paying citizens.

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