Teachers, students divided over Gaokao reform plan

Updated: 2013-10-22 00:09

By ZHAO XINYING (China Daily)

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Teachers, students divided over <EM>Gaokao</EM> reform plan

Sean McNally from Britain teaches Chinese children how to learn English through paintings. Many students in China have trouble learning English and using it in their daily lives. Meng Zhongde / for China Daily

A plan to reform gaokao, or China's college entrance examination, in Beijing has divided experts, who disagree on whether placing less emphasis on English-language skills is a good idea.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Education said Monday that the scores for subjects like English and Chinese in Beijing's gaokao will change as of 2016. The overall score of English will drop from 150 to 100, while the total points for Chinese will rise from 150 to 180.

Other regions, including Jiangsu and Shandong provinces and Shanghai municipality, are also preparing their own gaokao reforms.

According to China National Radio, Shandong will cancel the listening part of the English examination in its gaokao.

Some local reports in Jiangsu also said that English may not be included in gaokao in the future, but education authorities later denied those reports, saying the idea was only a proposal.

Education experts have sharp differences of opinion on such proposals.

Hu Ruiwen, a member of the National Education Advisory Committee, said such a change would be a signal to students that they should pay more attention to their native language than a foreign one.

"Students now are spending too much time studying English," Hu said. "In fact, not all of them will or would like to go abroad."

"On the other hand, their native language is being used in every aspect of their life and work, so it's important for all Chinese students to learn their native language well," Hu said. The changes will also help students learn the Chinese language better, he added.

But Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said changing the total points will not affect students' knowledge of those subjects.

"I don't think a rise in the total points of Chinese will encourage students to improve their application ability in Chinese," Xiong said. "Instead, it will only make the students endeavor to score higher in the Chinese examinations."

There are differences of opinion among students and parents as well.

Some applauded the Beijing change, saying it's one way to help relieve the heavy burden of gaokao, while some are concerned it will lead to diminished English proficiency for those who choose to study abroad or work in the future.

Luo Enze, a student of the High School Affiliated to Beijing University of Chemical Technology, said the change has its advantages and disadvantages.

"A drop in the overall scores of English examination means that our English studying workload will shrink, which is good news to many of us," she said.

"But on the other hand, we may no longer work hard on English, which may have an adverse effect if we choose to have an English major or study abroad in the future.

"What's more, students who are good at English may be reluctant to hear the news because they are losing their edge in gaokao," she said.

Shen Qingxia, whose daughter is a high school student, said she is not that worried about the change.

"My daughter is good at both Chinese and English, and I believe that changes in total scores of the two subjects will not affect her gaokao results greatly," she said, adding that both students and teachers still have enough time to adjust to the changes.

Many English teachers in high schools voiced their support.

Liu Wei, an English teacher at the High School Affiliated to Beijing University of Chemical Technology, said the change is reasonable, considering the heavy burden that studying English imposes on high school students.

"For many students who are not interested in English, it's unnecessary for them to spend so much time studying it, and for those who have a passion for English, they can study it in college."

An English teacher at the High School Affiliated to Beijing Normal University, who asked to be identified only by her surname, Li, said the change is also good for English teachers.

"In the past, gaokao not only put pressure on students, but also on English teachers, because we all have to work hard on students' good performance in the examinations," Li said.

Past and present English classes in high school focused on reading and grammar, rather than practical skills like listening and speaking, Li added.

"The change in the exam doesn't mean that English is not important anymore. On the contrary, it means that we English teachers now can pay more attention to encouraging students to love English, and lifting their practical ability in using English," she said.


Cao Yin and Li Yingyan contributed to this story.