Medical school exams in Thailand cancelled after students caught using hi-tech cheating gizmos

It looked like a plot straight out of a Mission: Impossible movie. Three Thai students hoping to enter the medical profession sat for a college exam Saturday were caught using spy cameras linked to their smartwatches to cheat during exams.

Arthit Ourairat, dean and president of Rangsit University in Thailand, posted pictures on Facebook of “smart” glasses and smartwatches used to cheat on admissions tests, held May 7 and 8, for its College of Medicine, Faculty of Dentistry and Faculty of Pharmacy. “This was the most high-tech exam cheating system I’ve ever seen,” Ourairat told the Manager.

Spy glasses used to cheat on medical school exams

The Thai men involved have been identified as Narong Bomboonnak, 26; Chalermwong Sodarattana, 21; and Chatchai Yowaphui, 22, used glasses with wireless cameras embedded in their frames. These sent images to a group of co-conspirators, who sent exam answers to the trio via smartwatches.

“The team did it in real-time,” said the rector. “We want this to be known in public to make people aware that we must be careful, particularly for medical exams where there is high demand among students but not many vacancies.”

Smartwatches used in medical school exam cheating

Mr Arthit said the trio had paid 800,000 baht ($31,000) each to the tutor group for the equipment and the answers.

Thailand’s Channel 3 news reported that the students had been blacklisted.

After the rector’s original post went viral, many either praised the students for their ingenuity or condemned them for cheating.

“If they had passed and graduated, we might have had illegal doctors working for us,” wrote one Thai Facebook user in response to the scandal.

“Wow, if they become doctors with such a corrupt method, just think what kind of doctors we will get once they graduate?” wrote another user, Sureeporn Boonjong. “Even if they graduate into cosmetic surgeons, they will definitely take advantage of people who seek their treatment.”

Others were more impressed. “Cool … like Hollywood or Mission: Impossible,” another user wrote.

Medical degrees are highly sought in Thailand, as doctors there can rake in small fortunes in the private sector. The exam was a basic entrance exam to the college’s schools of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry, and covered math, English, and biology.

In spite of more than a decade of remarkable economic growth, Thailand’s education system is in terrible need of reform with rote learning, long hours and poor international test scores still commonplace.

In an announcement on its website, RSU told more than 3,000 students who sat exams to the College of Medicine and the faculties of Dental Medicine and Pharmacy, held on Saturday and Sunday, to appear for a re-test on May 31 and June 1 without charge. It cited “cheating carried out by a well-organised syndicate and the use of electronic devices” in the May 7-8 tests as the reason for the cancellation.

Currently, 27 universities under the umbrella of the Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT) are thinking of a ban on smartwatches during examinations.

Thai colleges have already enforced measures to prevent cheating, but CUPT president Udom Kachintorn said students keep coming up with new and creative ways to cheat.

“I think our society has not taught children well enough to realise that cheating is a dangerous and serious matter, and parents haven’t done a good job when it comes to teaching values like honesty and integrity, so everybody needs to help address the problem.”

While the alleged cheaters were taken to the local police station, they have not been charged since cheating on a test is not a crime. However, the tutoring institute may find itself in hot waters.