Education reform to reduce reliance on gaokao scores

Updated: 2013-12-06 00:26

By Lei Lei and Zhao Xinying (China Daily)

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Examination scores will no longer be the only standard for evaluating students in the future, with the education authority planning to soon release a series of reform policies for public opinion.

Liu Limin, vice-minister of education, said on Thursday that future high school examinations will no longer account for 100 percent of students' scores, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The national entrance examination for college, or gaokao, has been used to evaluate students for three decades.

In recent years, the gaokao has been criticized by the public for ignoring students' overall personality development and deciding their scholastic fates with only one exam.

The Communist Party of China Central Committee's Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, released after its Third Plenary Session last month, said there would be changes to the gaokao. These include reducing the number of examination subjects and having more than one test in some subjects, such as English, each year. China will also consider a multi-evaluation system so schools do not enroll students based solely on test performances.

Liu said the Ministry of Education has worked out a plan for the reform of examinations and enrollments that will be opened for public suggestions soon.

The ministry will release the plan after considering the public's suggestions and making appropriate modifications, Liu said.

"We will try to present opportunities for students to take exams more than once a year, and only the best results of those tests will be counted," Liu said.

Though no other details have been released so far, the reform has been welcomed by experts at home and abroad.

Murray Fowler, the master of Wellington College International Tianjin, said the changes "mirror part of the education system in some schools in the United Kingdom".

"In that system, you can take the exam several times, and you can separate it into two halves, which enables you to have one goal in the first year and, if you don't do well, you can take the exam again if you want and set another goal in the second year," said Fowler, who has worked in China since 2011.

"I think that's a fair thing. Another thing about the suggested changes, which I think is really good, is that it shouldn't just be about exams and tests. There should be other ways to look at what students can contribute, not just the academic way."

Ma Sirui, who will take the gaokao next year, wishes she could be one of those for whom the exam scores will not be all-important.

"Not applying the 100-point system is a good thing," said Ma, who goes to the Senior Middle School attached to the Beijing University of Chemical Technology. "The students won't have to worry about one point higher or lower anymore. If that happens someday, I'll be jealous."

But others had concerns.

"If there is no standard to judge by, then how do we ensure fairness in admittance to universities?" said Cui Linlin, mother of a fifth-grader in Beijing.

Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, said to completely implement such a reform, people have to totally change their mindsets.

"To ease people's worries, we have to change the traditional frame of the exams," Chu said. "Exams in the future should focus on testing the students' basic abilities, not only their knowledge. Analytical ability is more important."

Dai Jiagan, a member of the National Educational Advisory Committee, said: "Testing should not be limited to what students learn from textbooks, but should include how to use that knowledge. At the same time, the knowledge tested should be in accordance with practical life."

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Zhang Min in Tianjin contributed to this story.