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Bizarre tests challenge Chinese students

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-04-18 23:26

BEIJING - Chinese high school students taking college entrance exams have been puzzled and confused by the strange questions appearing on the tests.

"How many monsters does the novel 'Journey to the West' depict? " is a question on the entrance exam for Shanghai's Fudan University.

"Which city is more hazy: Beijing or Shanghai?" Students must answer this question when taking an entrance exam for Sun Yat-sen University.

Since 2003, students who wish to enter top universities have been taking independent admission exams organized by the colleges each spring before taking the annual national college entrance exams.

The independent exams are part of education reforms intended to make the selection of candidates more comprehensive. Complaints about the rigid nature of unified college entrance exams are widespread.

But many students have doubts about the independent exams, particularly in light of the strange questions they must answer. The unorthodox nature of the questions does not match with conventional Chinese education, which values giving the "right" answer over giving a creative one. Many students have no idea how to even begin to answer the questions.

However, open questions can prompt students to think independently and creatively, an ability that will be required in their future career and life.

After a decade of trials, independent admission exams held separately by some universities have demonstrated progress in China's education reform. They are flexible and innovative, helping to prompt secondary education institutions to improve accordingly in order to foster independent thinking and analysis.

Students cannot prepare for the exams merely by cramming beforehand, but must become more creative and imaginative in order to stand out from their peers.

Creativity and imagination should be stressed more than a good memory. Acquiring knowledge is only one part of a quality education. Learning to find ways to apply that knowledge are just as important, if not more so.

Chinese educators should reconsider the way they evaluate students, as the country will need innovative minds to realize the dream of national rejuvenation.

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