Japan frenzy over university exam cheating peaks after arrest

Fri Mar 4, 2011 9:50am EST
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A week-long Japanese media frenzy over cheating on university entrance exams peaked on Friday after the arrest of a student who used his mobile phone to get answers off the Internet while sitting the tests.

Despite a shaky government and various economic woes, the cheating scandal has dominated Japanese news since a tipoff alerted one university last week, leading to the discovery of the questions -- and answers -- posted on the internet.

On Thursday night, a 19-year-old student from northern Japan was taken into custody after police combing through mobile phone records were led first to his mother, the subscriber to the mobile phone service, and then to him.

Kyodo news agency on Friday even sent a news flash quoting the student, who remains unnamed because he is a minor, as saying he cheated by "holding the phone between my thighs and texting with my left hand."

Media experts said a number of factors were to blame.

"I think the coverage has been a bit overdone myself, but this just goes to show that university entrance exams are still taken very seriously here in Japan," said Miiko Kodama, a professor at Musashi University who specializes in media studies.

"This is especially true of older generations who had a much harder time to get into university than people today, back in the days when it was known as the 'exam war.'"

The student, who was trying for university entrance for a second year after failing the year before, took exams for four of Japan's top universities between Feb 8 and 26.   Continued...