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Exam reform to ease student burden

Updated: Sep 5,2014 5:00 PM     China Daily

Including high school marks would aid better scholastic development, expert says

The gaokao, or national college entrance exam, will no longer be the only criterium for colleges to admit students, the Ministry of Education said on Sept 4.

Colleges should view both students’ gaokao scores and their academic performances for university enrollment, Vice-Minister of Education Liu Limin said.

Under plans released on Thursday, only three subjects - Chinese, math and English - will be tested during gaokao.

This differs from previous gaokao, in which six or more subjects are tested.

Other subjects, such as geography, history, biology, physics and chemistry will be tested during high school, and students can take exams twice for each of these subjects, Liu said.

Pilot programs will begin this year for high school 10th-graders in Shanghai and Zhejiang. Once these students apply for college in three years the reform will be expanded nationwide.

Students can choose three subjects with the highest scores when they apply for college, and colleges can recruit students on the basis of the marks from high school and the gaokao.

“The reform will reduce students’ burden and stress because they won’t have to prepare for tests in so many subjects within a short time,” Liu said.

The gaokao had been China’s way of selecting talent since it was resumed in 1977, after being suspended during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76). But in recent years, it has been criticized for being too much of a burden and affecting students’ diversified development.

Tang Shengchang, a member of the National Education and Examination Steering Committee and former president of Shanghai High School, supported the reform.

“In the past, students have had to study all subjects very hard in order to score high in gaokao. Now, they only have to study those subjects they are interested in and good at,” Tang said.

“Different students will make different choices in the three subjects, and, as a consequence, their diversified development will also be encouraged and improved,” he added.

However, Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, had doubts about that.

“The reform doesn’t change the way that colleges recruit students on the basis of ‘scores’, which means students still have to work extremely hard in order to score high and be admitted to a good university,” he said.

“Previously, students only felt stress in the last year of high school for the preparation of gaokao. Now they may be stressed during each year of high school.”