Although gaokao, the annual nationwide college entrance exam in China that seated 9.33 million students in early June, “has been great at imparting math and engineering, as well as the rigorous work ethic that has been so integral to China’s rise so far…state economists know they need to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity, neither of which is tested for on this life-determining exam.” Students have mixed feelings about the test, although many seem acclimated to the concreteness that a test result provides. A problem arises, though, with extracurricular activities as well as fostering innovative thinking. Instead of being seen as intangibles that help students with college acceptances, as in the U.S., many Chinese students see extracurricular activities, which have little-to-no value for the Chinese college admissions process, as “distractions.” As for innovation and creativity: “Whatever your formula for innovation — diversity of thought, collaboration, risk-taking — you’re not likely to find it in abundance in Chinese schools, where high-stake tests pit students against one [another] in a zero-sum competition that can feel a little more Hunger Games than think tank.”
The following video highlights the stress involved in taking the high-stakes examination:
Shanxi Province will be introducing a new platform for teachers to evaluate students’ College Entrance Examination scripts. All answer scripts will be scanned and teachers will evaluate the scripts via computer. The Chinese College Entrance Examination has always been a hot topic in education reform discussions. Refer to the special issue of Chinese Education and Society (45:1) for more context on the processes, challenges, and opportunities for education reform in China over the past 30 years.
The “one shot, one kill” kind of college entrance exam–known as the “gaokao”–is at the center of the exam-oriented Chinese education system. Education in China teaches to tests and yearns for higher scores, with some labelling these examinations an “obsession” and others pointing to the stress that such high-stakes testing has imposed on students. Besides the very strict once-a-year schedule of the exam, there are also other policy aspects, such as suggesting that students should return to their household-registration city to take the exam, even if they have migrated to and attended school in another city for many years. Universities treat students with the same scores from different regions differently so the “hometown exam-taking” requirement has been causing a tremendous amount of inequality. Educators and policy makers continued the dialogue on the reform of college entrance exams at Boao Forum, one of China’s leading policy forums. Some individuals have proposed less stringent guidelines, even favoring more elective options for students.