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  The past years have witnessed a mounting number of Chinese scholars
returning from overseas. As is lively illustrated by the column chart,
the number of returnees climbed from a mere 69.3 thousand in 2008 to
over 272.9 thousand in 2012, at an annual increase rate of around 50%.

Gaokao, or the National College Entrance Exam of China, is one of the
most controversial topics in the country. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang
said that the government will deepen the reforms on education and the
enrollment system so that each person would have the opportunity to
change their own destiny through education. He said this in the
government work report he delivered during the opening session of this
year’s NPC, China’s top legislature National People’s Congress, on
Thursday in Beijing.What’s included in the reforms? And will the reform
make Gaokao a better channel for social mobility? Let’s follow our
reporter Chi Huiguang to find out.Just one day before the government
report was delivered, on March 4, the Education Ministry of China
announced that it will reform the Gaokao system and education
enrollment, in order to further the educational fairness. On its
official site, the ministry has published 40 key points of focus for
this year.

  A multitude of factors may have led to the tendency revealed by the
chart, but the following are the critical ones from my perspective.
First and foremost, along with the development of Chinese economy and
society, the number of Chinese studying abroad has been soaring in the
past years, which has provided an expanding base for the number of
returnees. In the second place, the government has enacted a series of
preferential policies to attract overseas Chinese scholars back home.
Last but not least, the booming economy, science and technology in this
country have generated more attative job opportunites for scholars
returning from overseas.

The reforms include changes in scoring of Gaokao, which will come in a
new 3 plus 3 format. Vice principal of the High School Affiliated to
Beijing Normal University, Liang Yuancao, explains what it is.

  The waves of returnees will definitely contribute to this nation’s
development, since they have brought back not only advanced science and
technology but also pioneering concepts of education and management.
With more scholars coming back from overseas, and with the concerted
efforts of the whole nation, we have reasons to expect a faster
rejuvenation of this country.

The three major subjects of math, Chinese and English are still kept in
the unified exam of national or provincial level. In addition, students
have to choose 3 scores out of the elective subjects including politics,
history, geography, physics, chemistry and biology to be included in
their overall scores of Gaokao. The elective subjects should be chosen
according to both their own interests or superiority, and the
requirements of the university they want to enroll.


Zhou Xingguo, principal of AnShan No.1 Middle School in northeast
China’s Liaoning province says that universities will not base their
judgment of applicants solely just on scores in the future.

  This is a satiric but true-to-life drawing. As we can see in it, a
man is drowning, with only one arm above water gesturing for help. Those
standing on the bank, however, instead of lending a helping hand, are
busy photographing with their mobile phones, most possibly taking the
scene as another eyeball-attractor on the Internet.

We also take in consideration of comprehensive assessments on elective
classes as well as evaluations on morality standards, physical health,
art cultivation and social practices. It is a multivariate enrollment

  Exaggerating as it might be, the phenomenon mirrored by the cartoon
is not uncommon in modern society. Actually, both the picture and
instances in real life point to the fact that many people nowadays
ignore what they should do due to the use of mobile phones and the
Internet. It never too rare to see some people taking pictures of newly
served dishes in a restaurant and upload them to their friend circle in
We Chat. Nor is it to find people busy taking photos and update their
micro blogs when touring. Some even fail to take proper actions in case
of emergency, just as the crowd in the picture do. Their only goal seems
to be attracting as much attention online as possible.

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  Such being the case, it is high time that we pondered over the
problem and figured out a solution. Among all measures, I believe, the
central one should be resisting the temptation of vanity brought along
by such modern self-media as micro blog, and coming more back to life

Pang Weiguo


Professor Pang Weiguo from East China Normal Universityin Shanghai
expresses positive attitude toward the reform: Students will be
evaluated by their overall performances in their high school or even
longer periods. For instance, some students who have strong capabilities
on interpersonal communication or community and public welfare
activities, which are hard to reflect on the test papers of Gaokao
currently. So the comprehensive assessment is a more reasonable
evaluation method.Professor Li Ruifeng, deputy to the NPC from Taiyuan
University of Technology in the province of Shanxi, says though having
long been scolded for suffocating creativity, Gaokao has still been fair
in selecting high-scoring students for the country’s limited higher
education institutions. However, he says the reform is a necessity and
also an improvement to the current system.

  Is It Up to Students to Evaluate Teachers?

First of all, it changes the system of determining your future with a
set of tests during a few days. Especially the English exam. After the
reform, students can take the test twice in one year, and pick the
better result to add to their total score, which will ease the pressure
from both the students and their families. And, the elective subjects
policy of the comprehensive evaluation system gives both the
universities and the students better chances to make better choices. Li
says, the elective-class teaching method breaks the traditional fixed
class arrangement in Chinese high schools, and encourages students to
plan for their academic future when they are in secondary schools.Under
the current system, students bury themselves in studying for 12 years of
primary and secondary education, and only start to think what they would
do in the future after the Gaokao. The reform will help inspire
students’ potential and encourage in-depth pursuit of their interests.
Principle Liang Yuancao voices his support for the change.The new system
also allows academically gifted students to advance to a higher-level
class according to their interests and talents, after they meet the
common requirements on other subjects.Principle Zhou Xingguo also
confirms high schools in Liaoning province will change their curriculum
to align with the Gaokao reform.Professor Pang Weiguo believes under the
new enrollment scheme, colleges may favor a student by taking into
consideration the score of one of the student’s three elective classes.
This is a glad tiding for those who are particularly good at one certain
subject. It’s a common phenomenon in the earlier age of Peking
University and Tsinghua University to accept students not only based on
their overall scores but also on their elective classes. Famous
historian Wu Han, well-known writer Qian Zhongshu, and top scientist
Qian Weichang would not have been able to attend college under the
current system. The reform also take in consideration of these kinds of
students, it’s good for them.Pang also says the reformed Gaokao becomes
similar to the American Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT.David Moser,
Academic Director at CET Chinese Studies of Capital Normal University in
Beijing who comes from the United States, gives a comparison of the two
biggest college entrance examination in the world. As some people may
know that the SAT test for college entrance is only one of several
criteria that colleges use to evaluate students in the United States.
Some feels that it is a better system because it is a more comprehensive
evaluation that looks at students from other angles, besides just the
performance on the test. I think it is a good move for Chinese students
to reform the Gaokao.The reforms have also sparked discussion over how
to ensure fairness of the Gaokao. Many education experts say the reforms
could objectively and comprehensively reflect students’ improvement in
middle school.On the other hand, there are public concerns about the
abuse of power. People are worried that the admission will have no clear
standard if the significance of scores is reduced. Some are even
concerned that those students from wealthier families or families with
better social resources can get better certifications of social
practices, which will bring new unfairness into the comprehensive
evaluation system.David Moser understands the worries: To be quite
honest, this situation of unfairness still exists in the United States
and in other countries, and it still exists under the Gaokao system.
It’s always the case that parents with better economic means are able to
give their children better educational opportunities at home and in the
schools. The reform of the Gaokao in this sense, cannot completely
correct that problem. But I will also mention one other thing; I think
the loosening of the pressure on the Gaokao might actually cause
lowering in the amount of cheating in the Gaokao, because there was so
much pressure in performing well in the Gaokao that students tend to put
great effort into cheating. So I think it still good to do it though the
question will not be totally solved by the reform.Currently, the grading
of extracurricular performances is within the discretion of teachers and
some teachers just randomly give students scores before their
graduation. Falsification of social engagement records is not an
uncommon practice. Some parents worry they may have to trade bribes for
better grades. Liang Yuancao admits:The problems of unfairness or even
corruption might exist in a short term. But they are avoidable. Schools
do have their ways to confirm the certifications and evaluate the
qualities. Moreover, most of the practical activities should be held
within the schools. Activities outside the schools just occupy a small
part. Even if there are false elements, it will never affect the
results.What Liang worries more is the fairness of evaluation within the
schools. Zhou Xingguo gives out a solution:We will design a quantitative
system for the comprehensive evaluation. The standards and the ways of
the evaluation will be published to the students and parents. The
evaluation results of every student will also be shown to the public. It
will be a transparent course that leaves no room for black box
operation. According to NPC Deputy Li Ruifeng, schools need more
professional and persuasive replacements to convince the public that the
change will not damage fairness but evaluates applicants more
comprehensively.One of the most important functions for NPC deputies is
supervising and advising. There are a big number of deputies who are
teachers from universities and schools all over the country. What we
care about most is the education in China, which will play a decisive
role in China’s development. It says it takes ten years to grow trees
but a hundred years to rear people. A good system is needed to help
cultivate the talents of our people. China resumed the Gaokao system in

  The past few years have witnessed a mounting number of universities
allowing students to evaluate their teachers and even decide if they can
stay on their positions or not. To this practice, people’s attitudes
differ considerably. Some applaud it warmly whereas others criticize and
even condemn it harshly.

  1. Since then, the exam has been called a single-plank bridge because
    of the wide gap between applicants and admissions. But in recent years,
    Gaokao has attracted criticism for its suffocation of students’
    innovative spirit, leading to serious brain drain. The number of
    students taking the Gaokao test has declined from its peak of 10.5
    million in 2008 to some 9.4 million last year, and many top scorers
    chose to study in Hong Kong and Macau.

  Proponents of the practice may list the following reasons. In the
first place, they assert that students are the people who know the most
clearly about the teaching performance of a teacher, so they should have
the say in evaluating him or her. In the second place, they contend that
students have paid for their education, so they have the right to decide
which teacher should be employed.

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  Opponents, however, point out that it is dangerous to leave the
right to students to evaluate teachers. For one thing, students may not
know what ought to be taught and how it should be taught; they may only
judge a teacher according to his temper and even accent or appearance.
For another, in order to please students, some teachers may resort to
some improper means.


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