Gaokao changes with times

By Xu Lin | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-25 07:41
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Students and relatives celebrate the end of the college entrance exam on June 8, in Guiyang, Guizhou province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Questions combine theory with current affairs, key issues and social reality

China's annual college entrance exam, the gaokao, wrapped up on June 9, and candidates across the country were able to check their examination results starting on Saturday.

Chinese often compare the highly competitive exam to crossing a narrow bridge, because for many students, especially those from rural areas, enrollment at a university is an opportunity to change their future.

This year's exam questions have been hotly debated on social media because of the way they combined theory with current affairs, key issues and social reality.

The changes to the questions over the years showcase the country's desire to reform the exam and nurture creative talent. In the process, teachers have been encouraged to adjust their methods to enhance their students' all-around skills.

Students at Tsinghua University in Beijing in 1977. They were among the first batch to sit the college entrance exam which resumed that year after a decade of suspension. [Photo/Xinhua]

According to People's Daily, experts from the Ministry of Education's exam center welcomed this year's test with its focus on the all-around development of students' moral, intellectual, physical, aesthetic and labor education.

In the national mathematics exam, there were questions about China's Chang'e 4 lunar probe, which landed on the far side of the moon in January, and the country's high-speed trains. One question asked students to calculate a person's height by using the golden ratio of the Venus de Milo, an ancient Greek sculpture on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

"It's an innovative question, but it's not difficult. You just need to take some time to calculate it," said Bai Wenxin, 18, from Longquan Middle School, in Jingmen, Hubei province.

"When I did papers from previous national college entrance exams and took my school's mock exams, I also bumped into a few creative questions, so I'm not surprised by the Venus question. Such training helped me keep calm."

Young people sit the exam in 1977 in Beijing. [Photo/Xinhua]

Bai said some mathematics questions were combined with topics like tai chi, the Eight Trigrams-symbols used in Taoist cosmology-and ancient Chinese classics on mathematics.

"Some questions, such as the ones about permutation and combination, are often associated with situations in life," Bai said. "It's very down-to-earth.

"To have such creative questions in the gaokao papers is good. Because eventually we have to apply what we've learned from the textbooks in practice."

One solid geometry question is about an ancient polyhedron jet seal of a general from the Western Wei Dynasty (535-556). It has stirred up people's curiosity and many went to Shaanxi History Museum, where the seal is exhibited, to have a look at it.

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