SHANGHAI: Four Shanghai universities that included an English test in their independent admission examinations but chose to leave out Chinese have come under flak for giving "more importance to a foreign language".
Internet users flooded the Qiangguo Forum (bbs.people.com.cn) to voice their disapproval, calling the exams "traitorous", "discriminatory", and accused the universities of "blindly worshipping foreign languages".
Hu Guang, a representative of the Shanghai People's Political Consultative Conference, said the universities' decision to exclude Chinese from the subjects to be tested was "hasty, irresponsible, short-sighted and inconsistent with laws".
Reportedly, Hu, along with 30 other representatives, signed a proposal to correct the misleading idea that Chinese is an insignificant subject in domestic college entrance examinations.
According to university guidelines, students who clear the independent admission examinations would be given priority during admission provided they clear the national college entrance exams this summer.
Authorities at Tongji University, one of the four universities that ignored a test on Chinese in the exams, said they only wanted to ease the burden on students by "not testing everything", local media reported.
Qin Fang, mother of a prospective college freshman, said it was "very thoughtful" of the universities.
"I quite agree with the idea. My daughter had to study for the English test for three hours every day for two months. If she had to prepare for a Chinese test as well, she would have no time to sleep," Qin said.
Many other parents felt the move eased certain financial pressures too.
"My son took a three-month program to prepare for the English test. It cost me 40,000 yuan ($5,880). More subjects means more programs and more expenditure," said a parent surnamed Qiu.
Students who sat for independent entrance exams termed the criticism an "overreaction".
"These are independent exams. The name itself makes it amply clear. Then why can't the universities decide which subjects they want to test their prospective students in without being slammed?" said Linda Song, who's applying for admission to the Shanghai Finance and Economics University.
The four universities, which are now facing the wrath of the public, are renowned for their study and research in fields of engineering, mechanics, design, economics and finance.
"For these universities, testing English is essential because students need to use the language quite often in the future, especially when we go on exchange programs, visit overseas colleges and do research. Many important monographs and periodicals are in English," said Jia Yu, a 17-year-old high school student who plans to sit for the independent admission examination next year.
"Chinese, however, is our mother tongue and it is assumed that local students would know the subject pretty well. There isn't much of a point to test our Chinese skills at entrance exams for colleges that don't have much to do with Chinese as a language anyway," Jia said.
But Tina Zhu, an 18-year-old high school student, felt a different way.
"Many of my classmates excel in math, chemistry and physics, but they really have to struggle to compose an essay in Chinese. One of my classmates learned an essay template by heart and wrote the same essay in more than 10 exams."
Jewel Harris, a visitor from England, said her feelings with regard to the importance attached to English in China were mixed.
"I was in a park when a 13-year-old boy came and struck up a conversation with me in English. I was quite amazed. It made me realize that schools and universities were making great efforts to help students learn English," she said.
"I have no idea why students' Chinese was not tested at this particular exam. But in my country, verbal ability, that is English, is always tested in admission exams."
(China Daily 02/02/2010 page4)