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Sweeping gaokao reform pledged

2014-09-05 08:38 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

China's State Council on Thursday released a guideline aimed at reforming the country's college entrance examination system, or gaokao.

The guideline is said to be "the most comprehensive" reform since China resumed the gaokao in 1977 following the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), according to Du Yubo, vice-minister of education.

High school students will no longer be tested based on school streaming into either an arts or science curriculum, which usually occurs in the junior year of high school. Students will take three general gaokao exams on Chinese, math and English.

The rest of their gaokao score will come from their test performance on three other subjects in high school exams. The three subjects are either required by the university students apply to or are chosen by students.

High school exams are generally considered easier than the gaokao and are conducted in the junior year to test students' knowledge on various subjects. Passing these exams is the prerequisite for a high school diploma.

"The dual stream gaokao system has forced students to choose between liberal arts and science at an early stage and deprived students of the opportunity to construct a balanced knowledge structure," said Xiong Bingqi, vice director of the 21st Century Education Development Research Institute.

Xiong's opinion was echoed by a high school teacher surnamed Feng from Xinxiang, Henan Province, who said that the new system will likely benefit the students in the sense that tests are no longer concentrated in the senior year. "It allows students to focus on specific subjects in different time periods, which will probably generate better scores," said Feng.

The guideline also stipulates that more provinces are required to use nationwide standardized exam papers.

Sixteen provincial regions, including Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin currently have the power to draft their own exam papers. The policy has stirred much controversy with many parents crying unfair as the difficulty level among various regions cannot be unified, yet students are selected based strictly on their exam scores.

"The current system is tilted with education resources favoring provincial regions with certain advantages," said Lu Yi, a research fellow with Shanghai's Fudan University.

The guideline also declares that students with talent in sports or arts will no longer be awarded extra points in the gaokao. The policy is aimed at promoting equality as bonus points can be easily manipulated through bribes.

However, students in central and western China, especially those from minority ethnic groups, will continue to enjoy preferable policies.

The guideline is expected to be fully implemented in 2017. Shanghai and Zhejiang Province will carry out pilot programs this year.

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