Education reform would make gaokao only one factor

Updated: 2012-07-30 07:30

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

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Gaokao, the all-important Chinese national college entrance examination, might become just one of the key admission criteria, as policymakers and educators advocate more rounded development of students.

Chinese universities should separate student enrollment from the gaokao, said Tan Songhua, who sits on the National Education Advisory Committee and is a key architect of the gaokao system.

"If we can separate the examination and recruitment processes, with the gaokao scores serving only as a reference for university administrators, colleges can set their own criteria for enrollment," he said.

In doing so, China will also be able to make the exam department more professional in providing test services, Tan told a group of teachers from China and the United States at a gathering in Beijing on July 23.

China holds the national exam once a year. Sixteen of the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities use test papers provided by local education authorities, while others use a unified national exam.

After the exam, students' scores are sent to province-level education departments, which are in charge of scoring and distributing students' materials to colleges according to their rankings.

At present, the most important criterion for selecting students is the admission scores, but with the reform, the "glory of high scores" will recede, Tan said.

Tan also suggested a number of measures for the reform, including improving the uniformity of question difficulty of the exam, developing new channels for college admission, using variable criteria in the assessment of students, encouraging colleges to set individualized admission criteria and high-school principals to recommend outstanding students directly to college.

However, Tan conceded that while some pilot projects are already under way, full-scale changes will need time because China's gaokao is in the middle of reform and is still changing.

But the heads of some of China's finest high schools that produce the highest gaokao scores applaud his ideas.

"Competing for high-score holders is not what a world-class university should do, because it is not the students' score, but their academic achievement that makes a university outstanding," said Liu Changming, principal of Beijing No 4 High School.

"I do not want my students to regard exam scores as everything," said Zhang Zhimin, principal of Shanghai Gezhi High School, who also attended the seminar organized by the Ameson Education and Culture Exchange Foundation.

"I want them first to be healthy and virtuous, then concerned about school performance."