Counterfeit Teaching Certificate, A 100 Million RMB Black Industry Chain
China’s teaching certificate examination in the first half of 2019 just ended recently, setting a new record of applicants’ number. The current craze of attending this exam is propelled by public school teachers’ enhanced job benefits and the policy laid out aimed at regulating after-school market. Nowadays, teaching certificate is not only required for public schools but also for teachers of after-school tutoring institutions. However, the passing rate of this examination is just less than 30%, leading to a pain point of the contradiction between the rigid demand and high difficulty. Anxiety and stress hastens some candidates’ impulsion of taking shortcuts. The topic that “Can teaching certificate be bought without examination” has been searched frequently in social media.
The answer to this question seems to be “yes”. Recently, JMDedu has spotted a black industry chain of making and selling counterfeit teaching certificate. After the exposure, the Ministry of Education has immediately contacted us and published an official statement on their website. Great concern has also been attached to the cyber-security department.
In this scandal, more than 100 government departments’ official websites have been counterfeited, causing extremely negative social impact. It is conservatively estimated that these fake websites have almost 100 agents nationwide. From the investigation, each agent can sell at least 20 counterfeit certificates a year, each with a profit of 5,000 yuan. Their margin could reach at least 100 million RMB per year. JMDedu has submitted the screenshots, recordings, videos and other relevant evidence to the Ministry of Education and Police to fully cooperate and contribute to the crackdown of this black industry chain.
Can candidates step across the high threshold set for education industry just by spending 7500RMB?
During the investigation, JMDedu contacted with an “agent” who said that she could help to apply for the teaching certificates both issued by nation and province without examination. The certificate issued by nation means that it can be searched on the national teaching certificate official website. Its price exceeds 20,000 RMB and candidates need to wait for two years while the provincial certificate refers to the documents that can be checked on the official website of provinces’ and cities’ education departments. Candidates just need to pay 7500 RMB and could get the certificate within one month. The difference between these two kinds of certificates is that people who have the national one can get staffing quota in public schools or institutions whereas the provincial one can be used to get a job in training institutions, kindergartens, private schools and can also be used to meet the inspection of the education department.
According to the “agent” we contacted, the provincial certificate is issued by the Education Bureau of Huanggu District of Shenyang. And the website available for inquiry is also the official website of this district’s Education Bureau. She suggested that we could apply for a provincial one at first and promised to give us a receipt and sign a protocol. The documents required are only the copies of the ID card, the electronic version of the ID photo, the copies of the Mandarin Credential and the diploma. If the candidates do not have the Mandarin Credential, they just need to pay another 300 RMB..
What is the truth about “Certificates can be inquired on official websites”?
After the fake certificate was sent to JMDedu, there already exists the stamp mark, certificate number and official seal.. However, compared with the real one, the quality of our certificate is obviously poor in terms of the paper quality, typesetting format and the text content. We found the inquiry function on the “Shenyang Huanggu District Education Information website” (www.hgedu.org.cn) provided by the “agent”. After entering the certificate number and personal information on it, the information shown was exactly the same as the one on our certificate.
Roughly browsing the website, the contents are all related to education and the style is the same as the official website. However, it is easily found that each of the eight columns ( educational news, higher education, compulsory education, vocational education, etc.) listed on the website has few articles and the content is chaotic. Moreover, the earliest article was posted in this February, making us doubt its authority. After searching, JMDedu found that the website was launched on September 30, 2018, and its title was “Shenyang Huanggu District Education Bureau”.
Therefore, we immediately contacted the Huanggu District Education Bureau, but the staff clearly stated that there was no official website of their department. And actually they already knew this counterfeit website and had contacted the police to shut it down for a while. In addition, the staff made it clear that the Huanggu District Education Bureau could neither issue the teaching certificates nor provide an online inquiry service.
Based on their reply, JMDedu asked the “agent” for an explanation, she still insisted that the website provided was official and said that lots of candidates have entered the private school and training institution with the certificate. Later, she said that she was just an agent and needed to ask her superiors for some details. But she refused our request to communicate with them directly, and warned us that her friend who worked in public security bureau considered this as a civil dispute and calling the police was useless.
Subsequently, the “agent” confessed to JMDedu that they are not able to apply for the national teaching certificate. The reason for saying that is just to gain the trust from candidates and let them be scared away by the long time and high price, then “voluntarily” choose to apply for the provincial one. Daring to guarantee the certificate can be permanently inquired is just due to people’s ignorance of that the county-level department’s official website has been already abolished. (On December 1, 2014, the General Office of the State Council has issued the document clearly stating that “the county-level government departments, township governments ( Street office) no longer establish official websites separately.)
Transnational black industry chain led by “the fake official website”
In the process of the investigation, JMDedu found that there is a large number of such agencies and institutions who claimed that they could help apply for the official credentials besides teaching certificates, and the price ranges from 2,000 to tens of thousands RMB. The verification websites provided by these institutions have overlapped, which means that their superior is actually the same group who hold the fake website.
The IP address (www.hgedu.org.cn) provided by “the agent” is located in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. There are as many as 158 fake websites derived from the same IP address. After deduplicating, there are 104 remaining, of which 86 websites are running normally. Most of the registrants are “Tong Chen” with the same registered email address. Besides, there are 22 websites located in the same IP address in Hong Kong, and 16 are running normally after deduplicating.
According to our statistics, these normally operating websites are all counterfeit of the government department. The contents of the website are also full of mistakes, and other functions besides the certificate inquiry are either external links or cannot be clicked.
Does fake certificate really benefit the candidates?
JMDedu consulted legal advice that the agent in the entire chain and her superiors are all involved in the crime of swindling. In addition, the purchase and use of fake official certificates are also illegal, and once verified, individuals will be punished with administrative detention.
At the press conference held on February 15 this year, Ren Youqun, Director from the Department of Teacher Affairs of the Ministry of Education, clearly stated that management will be strengthened in 2019, reaffirming that education administration department and testing service organizations are banned to conduct examination-oriented training or related activities targeting at teaching certificate in any form . More concern will be attached to preventing and combating all kinds of counterfeiting by both the education department and the public security department.
Obviously, fake certificates will bring “convenience” to the buyers, which will inevitably entail a dark market like this. However, the overwhelming spread of fake certificates not only damages the fairness of talent acquisition but also leads to “the market for lemons”. As the most influential education media in China, we will continue tracking the follow-ups of this scandal, and will be devoted to exposing such kind of morally corrupt business in the education industry.