China / Society

Top gaokao scorers dive into competitive work life

By ZHAO XINYING (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-11 08:32

Report shows that those who do best go into management, engineering fields

Management, engineering and economics-related majors are favored most by top scorers in the gaokao, or national college entrance exam, a report has found.

The report, which was released by the Chinese Alumni Network on Wednesday, analyzed more than 3,000 top scorers on the test from 1952 to 2014. It was found that 68.63 percent of the group of excellent students favored majors widely recognized as the most competitive ones and that can bring the most material rewards.

"The phenomenon has been particularly common among gaokao top scorers since the beginning of the 21st century," the report said. "Management is their favorite."

Jiang Guohua, academic committee director of alumni network, an online platform for alumni to communicate with each other, said the phenomenon was not hard to understand, as more multinational companies and international banks flooded to China after the country joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

"These companies and enterprises offered lots of employment opportunities with high salaries that attracted great numbers of excellent talent, including gaokao top scorers," said Jiang, who is also a researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences.

By contrast, some less-attractive majors, which "take a lot of energy to study but don't have a bright prospect of landing a high-salary job", such as history, education, philosophy and literature, were rarely chosen by the top scorers, the report said.

Jiang said the gaokao top scorers as a group reflected the reputation and competitiveness of universities and majors in Chinese society with their fields of study.

"The majors chosen by gaokao top scorers usually represent the most prominent and popular ones in China," he said.

The report also analyzed careers and incomes of this group of students, finding that gaokao top scorers, though scattered in a wide range of sectors and industries, are generally positioned as "white collar" or "golden collar" workers and received higher salaries than their lower-scoring peers.

However, running businesses and being in engaged in politics are apparently not the greatest strengths of the top scorers. They excel in academia, according to the report.

"Some gaokao top scorers who run businesses of their own have become billionaires, but none of them are on the major international or domestic rich lists, such as Hurun and Forbes," said Cai Yanhou, a researcher of higher education at Central South University in Changsha, Hunan province, adding that none of the top scorers ever rose to become senior officials, such as ministers or provincial governors.

"However, many gaokao top scorers have performed very well and worked as leaders in the fields of literature, media, law and finance," said Cai, who also took part in the research and analysis.

Jiang believes it's common among top-scoring students around the world, because "the mastery of knowledge, which top scorers are good at, usually doesn't help much in creating social wealth or climbing the ladder in a country's political system, as those require other skills for success".

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