'Mission: Impossible' cheating plot uncovered at Thai college

BANGKOK • A top Thai medical college has caught students using spy cameras linked to smartwatches to cheat during exams, in what some social media users yesterday compared with a plot straight out of a Mission: Impossible movie.

Dr Arthit Ourairat, rector of Rangsit University, posted pictures of the high-tech cheating equipment on his Facebook page on Sunday evening, announcing that the entrance exam in question had been cancelled after the plot was discovered.

Three students used glasses with wireless cameras embedded in their frames to transmit images to a group of as yet unnamed people, who then sent the answers to the smartwatches.

Dr Arthit said the trio had paid 800,000 baht (S$31,100) each to the tutor group for the equipment and the answers. "The team did it in real time," Dr Arthit wrote.

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

Dr Arthit told the network: "We want this to be known to make people aware that we must be careful, particularly for medical exams, where there is high demand among students, but not many vacancies."

His original post went viral, with many either praising the students for their ingenuity or condemning them for cheating.

"If they had passed and graduated, we might have had illegal doctors working for us," wrote a Facebook user.

Others were more impressed. "Cool," wrote one. "Like Hollywood or Mission: Impossible."

Medical degrees are highly sought after in Thailand, where doctors can make small fortunes in a private sector that has become one of the world's treatment hubs.

Despite more than a decade of impressive economic growth, Thailand's education system is in dire need of reform, with rote learning, long hours and poor international test scores still common.

Last year, the World Bank said improving poor quality education was the most important step the kingdom could take to securing a better future, with one third of Thai 15-year-olds "functionally illiterate" - lacking the basic reading skills to manage their lives in the modern world.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline ''Mission: Impossible' cheating plot uncovered at Thai college'. Print Edition | Subscribe