Today the English version El Pais had an article (looks like a recycled version of this one in Spanish) about desperate parents hiring detectives to prove that other parents were cheating on their applications. From reading the article, a couple things jumped out:
- The consequences to cheating are almost nil. Even when other parents reported cheating to the authorities, they weren’t interested in pursuing the case.
The Madrid Education Board also says that it is “unable” to investigate suspicion of fraud. It says the responsibility lies with Madrid’s town halls to make sure that people do not falsely register themselves
- In one case, a father was taken to court by the tax authorities for falsifying his address. He was given a whopping 80 euro fine and said “It is the best thing that I have ever done, and I would do it again”. (His kid got to stay in the school he cheated to get into)
As to why cheating is so widespread, I think the simplest explanation is that people base their willingness to cheat on the perception of that other people are cheating.
One or two stories like this, and who would want to be the honest sucker who has to drive their kids to the other side of town, just so a bunch of cheaters can get their kids into the school they want.