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China’s College-Entrance Exam 

Jun 9, 2013 by

The National College Entrance Exam, commonly known as “Gaokao”, is an academic examination held annually in China. Known as the world’s largest standardized test, this examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all higher learning institutions here in China at the undergraduate chaor
Over the years, there has been much criticism of China’s “gaokao” system, with many complaining that it over-emphasizes on note-learning whilst stifling children’s creativity.
So why is the gaokao still considered the “hardest struggle in one’s life”, should our concept of education be changed?
On today’s program, we will hear experts’ opinion on “Gaokao”, as we discuss all the good and bad of “gaokao” and explore some of the options available there for young students.
Stay with us.
(theme music ends)
China’s national college entrance exam has begun.
More than 9 million students are taking the exam this year and over 70 percent of them will be accepted into college.
During their two day grilling for the college entrance qualification, the students will sit tests in Chinese and English languages, mathematics and science or humanities.
For Chinese students, the two days of exams are viewed as two of the most important days of their lives, because the exam results will determine whether they enter higher education or not, which promises, at least theoretically , a decent job in the future.
For the pros and cons of the controversy-sparking Gaokao system in China, we are joined on the line by Professor Shujie Yao, Head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at Nottingham University. He starts by briefing us on the history of “Gaokao” in the country:
(conversation with professor Shujie Yao)

In the past, the majority of students studying overseas were postgraduates and doctors. But now, more and more middle and high school students are choosing to study overseas.
According to figures given by one of Beijing’s largest agencies for overseas education, about 30 percent of Chinese students studying abroad were aged between 12 and 17.
The number has grown quickly over recent years because many parents felt that it was better to send their children abroad while young so they could improve their language skills and integrate into the western culture more easily. Another reason, as some parents put it, is for their children to get away from China’s national college entrance exam, the “one shot” unified exam which is known for its high tension and competitiveness.
However, many education experts caution that not every child is suited to be alone and far away from home at such a young and tender age.

(sound: airplane taking off)
Studying abroad at an early age has now become the vogue in China as it becomes increasingly attractive to more young people. Take the popular destination country of the United States for example, in 2008, less than 8-thousand young Chinese students went there to attend high school. The number has grown to 23-thousand by the end of 2012.
14 year old Wang Qiang is going to the United States this coming July for a high school education. Wang says he is looking forward to no longer suffering the frequent tests of Chinese schools and enjoying a higher degree of freedom, without the preaching and restrictions from his father and mother.

“I know I will need a little time to get used to the new environment, but as long as I can speak fluent English, I can make new friends and life won’t be too difficult.”
Wang Qiang’s parents believe that a high quality overseas education may distinguish their son from his Chinese classmates at home, and they know they have the financial means to follow through. Wang’s father says studying abroad is a great opportunity for his son to foster his survival ability and problem-solving skills:

“The kids will eventually have to learn how to tackle all kinds of problems in their lives. We parents can’t be around always forever. This is the biggest reason for us to send him abroad at such a young age; we hope he will be able to adapt to a totally new environment and learn how to cope with various kinds of problems. He will benefit greatly from the experience.”
Lu Wei is a supervisor of a renowned overseas education consultancy agency. She says theoretically speaking, the earlier a person moves abroad the easier they will find it to integrate. However, for those kids with weaker self-control abilities in a less stable psychological state, overseas life could be risky:

“We believe that 95 percent of young overseas students are quite successful in adapting to a new environment. But each year three to eight percent of students find that this new life held unexpected challenges that they can’t cope with alone. Western education is often more loosely structured, so for children who are less independent, chances are they will end up with poor academic performance and more seriously, suffer from huge psychological setbacks.”
Lu says life in a foreign country is hard even if you are resourceful and adaptable.
She cites a recent criminal case involving a young Chinese student in the UK as an example.
17 year-old He Minheng, from South China has been jailed after stabbing another Chinese student twice with a knife in an argument over soy sauce. He is a boarder at Langley School in Norfolk, east England.
The judge said the boy made a meal at the school at about 7.30pm and was ready to eat it. He needed some soy sauce and went to his friend to borrow some, and was refused.
The victim then asked the Chinese student how much he was going to pay for it, causing an argument. The boy is believed to have meant his response to be a joke but apparently He was not amused and the two boys exchanged angry words. He told his victim to ‘wait where he was’ before he ran off upstairs. He returned with an object in his hand and walked quickly to his friend, pushed him to a corner and stabbed him with a sharp knife. The attacker said he stabbed his friend because he insulted his mother during the argument.

He was jailed for 4 years. It costs RMB 240,000 a year to study at this prestigious school. He has to return to China after completing his prison detention and cannot complete his studies in England.
While He Minheng’s case may seem a bit extreme, there are quite a few out there who find that life in a foreign country to be lonely and depressing.
This summer, an 18 year-old identified by the pseudonym “Xiaolin” returned to a Dalian-based psychologist for help. After two years abroad, she failed to fit in with either her school or wider community there. She was forced to return home and study what she had skipped earlier.
Xiaolin was sent to Britain in 2011. She recalls that while many of her old classmates were enrolled in college two years later, she found herself to instead be stuck in a language test, ineligible to apply for any higher education in Britain.
In two years’ time, Xiaolin’s parents had already spent more than 300,000 RMB on her education, yet the money was rendered useless by her failure to adapt herself to life abroad.
Professor Pi Yijun, from China’s University of Politics and Law, thinks that many children are sent abroad while too young.

“Childhood and puberty are very important phases in a person’s development. If they are separated from their parents during these phases, it will not be good for their mental development or their family life. For students who have not reached adulthood, leaving their home country and communicating in a language other than their mother tongue can be somewhat unbearable. Setbacks may be inevitable without any training on the psychology and characteristics of the teenagers before they head abroad.”
Zhai Qi, acquired both her bachelor and master’s degrees at Stanford University in the US. Her mother says studying abroad with parents or alone are two different cases:

“If young children are studying abroad with their parents’ company, there’s no problem for their emotional development since they are still growing in a family environment; but if they are in a foreign country all alone, that’s a totally different story and they might not be growing very well culturally and emotionally.”
However, this father from Australia believes that as the world is being increasingly globalized, the children growing up in different cultures are the children of the future:

“I thought of the example of my two children, who were born in London, but moved to Istanbul in Turkey at the age of five, where they were brought up in a Turkish public school. They both speak fluent Turkish.
Then at the age of ten, we brought them to Beijing, where they are now learning Chinese. It will be interesting to see in the next couple of years, how they are as adults and where they attend university, because they speak three languages, and they don’t have a culture of their own, they lived in other people’s cultures. I myself was born in Australia, so they have estranged parent, brought up in London, educated in Turkey and China. Maybe they are the children of the future, they aren’t many children who had similar experiences.”
Experts suggest that parents should take all factors into consideration before sending their teenage children abroad.
Meanwhile, they point out the increasing number of young Chinese students overseas reflects a shortage in quality educational resources in their home country. How to enlarge education resources in China to meet the needs of students is a problem that remains to be solved.

China’s College-Entrance Exam .

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