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Teacher Who Videotaped Cheating Gets Award and Threats

A high school mathematics teacher in Vietnam has provoked a furor with videotapes of flagrant, school-sponsored cheating on high school graduation exams. The government has congratulated the teacher, but only after he went public with the evidence. And some students are angry.

Last week, Vietnam's new minister of education, Nguyen Tien Nhan, paid a visit to Do Viet Khoa, a high school math teacher in a small town just south of Hanoi. The minister congratulated Khoa for blowing the whistle on massive cheating on high school graduation exams.

During the nationwide exams held between May 31 and June 2, Khoa says he and other teachers were given gifts in exchange for looking the other way while school employees gave students the answers.

Khoa said parents and school officials gave monitors about $25 each, expecting them to say nothing.

In an interview, he said he and the other monitors in his school kept the $25 bribes as evidence. He secretly videotaped the cheating, and sent the tape to the Ministry of Education. When the ministry failed to follow up, he says, he went to the press.

Clips of Khoa's videotape were aired on national TV. Thousands of parents and students responded in newspapers and on Web sites. The Education Ministry, prodded into action, declared a new initiative to combat exam cheating.

The ministry's vice administrator-in-chief, Van Dinh Ung, says exam cheating is systemic in Vietnam.

Ung says the problem stems partly from so-called "target disease." Targets are set, and schools are punished if students fail final exams. The easiest way to make sure they pass, Ung says, is to give them the answers.

The system suits many parents and students - everyone, it seems, except students who have studied hard.

Nguyen Van Dung, a student in the school Khoa videotaped, says Khoa was right, and that schools should let students show what they know.

But others are angry, and Khoa says he has received many threatening e-mails. He read one aloud for VOA.

Khoa says e-mailer warns him to fear for his life.

Khoa's home also houses an Internet café, which he runs with his wife. In the three weeks since he went public, he has become a local celebrity, and everyone knows where he lives. But Khoa says he is not scared.

Khoa says people often ask him why he has such a "big liver" - Vietnamese slang for being brave. He says it is because of the Internet, which has allowed him to build links with students, parents and teachers around the country.

Perhaps the clearest sign of Do Viet Khoa's courage is the Web site he and a friend have set up to criticize shortcomings in the educational system. In the first three weeks, he says, they have received more than a thousand comments.