Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Education reform to help students

By Li Jianzhong (China Daily) Updated: 2013-12-05 07:12

The chances of students pursuing higher education have grown with the college admission rate reaching 80 percent. That's why the proposed change to the college entrance exam (gaokao) is no small matter. It wouldn't be exaggeration to say that it will have an impact on the lives of millions of Chinese families.

The Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, issued by the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, emphasizes the reform of gaokao and the college enrollment system. As Minister of Education Yuan Guiren said, the gaokao reform is a crucial part of the comprehensive reform of the education sector.

High school students get only one chance to crack gaokao, which for all practical purposes determines their future. The plenum decision, to be implemented through a series of measures, is expected to solve the problem of one single exam deciding the future of a student.

Education reform to help students

There is need to stick to the current exam-free compulsory nine-year education system while making efforts to promote comprehensive quality evaluation of students and their enrollment in vocational schools. There is also need to establish different admission systems based on two major comprehensive evaluation indexes - unified gaokao results and academic proficiency in high school exams - explore the possibility of reducing the number of subjects in gaokao, holding multiple exams in a year for admission to colleges and launching pilots that allow credit transfer among universities. Besides, vocational colleges and colleges for adult education need to admit students of all ages.

China's college enrollment system lays too much emphasis on the screening and selection procedure for gaokao and makes gaokao scores the only standard to evaluate students and schools. In the process, the authorities ignore students' academic performance in schools, their overall personality development and contribution to their schools and society. This has harmed quality-oriented education.

Multi-dimensional evaluation, the highlight of the proposed education reform, is designed to help foster the belief that "everyone could be a talent", and to respect individual's choice, encourage individual development, follow no set patterns for selection of talents, and replace the old selection-driven exam pattern with new evaluation concepts, contents and methods to assess students on a comprehensive and multi-dimensional basis.

Academic proficiency exams, aimed at evaluating how good high schools are at teaching the mandatory subjects, can help students develop a balanced knowledge structure. In comparison, comprehensive quality evaluation is an overall assessment of a student's morality, intelligence and physical health. In other words, it is a more comprehensive assessment of a student's potential in terms of academic excellence, innovation and social adaptability.

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