Thou­sands go to great lengths for exam

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LI YANG in Bei­jing

liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Dur­ing the first week­end of this month in Shang­hai, about 51,000 stu­dents took part in or na­tional col­lege en­trance exam, con­sid­ered “the most im­por­tant exam” of their lives.

Dur­ing the exam pe­riod, the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment co­or­di­nated ed­u­ca­tion, trans­porta­tion, me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal and com­mu­nity needs of the

tak­ers. Con­struc­tion projects were sus­pended; the weather fore­casts were de­tailed on an hourly ba­sis; traf­fic was con­trolled on some roads to en­sure the exam tak­ers not get stuck in con­ges­tion; the exam tak­ers were al­lowed to take sub­way and buses for free, and po­lice cars if they were late. Public hos­pi­tals or­ga­nized spe­cial task forces to treat exam tak­ers in case of emer­gency; and armed po­lice were as­signed to pro­vide se­cu­rity at exam lo­ca­tions.

Na­tion­wide, 9.42 mil­lion stu­dents took the exam. In some places, the stu­dents and their fam­i­lies prayed to var­i­ous gods, from an an­cient vil­lage tree to a Taoist scholar statue, for good luck in the exam. Some stu­dents’ par­ents even blocked some roads near the exam spots to min­i­mize ex­ter­nal in­flu­ence on the stu­dents.

These ex­or­bi­tant mea­sures are nor­mal and con­sid­ered ac­cept­able dur­ing be­cause peo­ple still be­lieve that is of great im­por­tance to the peo­ple want­ing to change their fate through ed­u­ca­tion, and the stu­dents’ per­for­mance in the exam does make a big dif­fer­ence in re­sults of the highly com­pet­i­tive se­lec­tion ex­ams.

Col­lege ed­u­ca­tion has al­ready be­come ed­u­ca­tion for the masses in­stead of elite since the gov­ern­ment ex­panded the univer­sity en­roll­ment scale in 1990s. In 1980s, when China re­sumed af­ter the “Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion” (1966-76), the en­roll­ment ra­tio was be­low 20 per­cent. This year, the ra­tio is ex­pected to hit nearly 80 per­cent.

To­day, the com­pe­ti­tion is no longer for a seat in col­lege, but the top 100 key univer­si­ties, which ac­counts for only about 15 per­cent of the over­all col­lege en­roll­ment, and the diploma of which means bet­ter jobs, higher in­come and so­cial sta­tus.

On the other hand, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is call­ing for col­lege stu­dents to start their own busi­nesses, and the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­ity is al­low­ing stu­dents to sus­pend their ed­u­ca­tion to be­come self­em­ployed, in a bid to re­spond to the eco­nomic slow­down’s neg­a­tive in­flu­ence on the em­ploy­ment mar­ket.

And the trans­for­ma­tion of China’s in­dus­trial struc­ture re­quires more skilled work­ers and tech­ni­cians grad­u­at­ing from se­nior vo­ca­tional schools and poly­tech­nic col­leges, which in many Chi­nese minds are in­fe­rior to univer­sity grad­u­ates. The un­em­ploy­ment ra­tio of the grad­u­ates from the av­er­age univer­si­ties is markedly higher than that of the vo­ca­tional schools.

The mis­match be­tween the univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion and the em­ploy­ment mar­ket’s needs have ex­isted for a long time. Although the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­ity has in­creased its sup­port for vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion, the peo­ple still scram­ble for col­lege ed­u­ca­tion.

Pre­vi­ously, many ru­ral stu­dents com­pared to a sin­gle-plank bridge to en­ter the city. Now the peo­ple see it as a spring­board to en­ter the key univer­sity and good jobs. The for­mer in­di­cated the rigid­ity of the so­cial mo­bil­ity sys­tem, which has been re­formed via fast eco­nomic growth. In the past 30 years, China’s ur­ban­iza­tion ra­tio dou­bled from about 20 per­cent to more than 50 per­cent.

The new mind­set shows the lim­ited ac­cess to pro­fes­sional suc­cess and the nar­row def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess in cur­rent so­ci­ety, un­der the in­flu­ence of a last­ing so­cial prej­u­dice against man­ual la­bor­ers.

The gov­ern­ment should re­form its higher ed­u­ca­tion and vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems to bet­ter fit the needs of eco­nomic restruc­tur­ing, and in­crease the pay­ment for man­ual la­bor work­ers and strengthen the pro­tec­tion of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights. The three mea­sures are nec­es­sary to pro­mote restruc­tur­ing, boost con­sump­tion and build an in­no­va­tive na­tion.

The ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­ity should fig­ure out new mech­a­nisms to be more ef­fi­cient, ob­jec­tive and fair than to re­lieve the public’s anx­i­ety over the “fa­tal” exam.

The stu­dents’ daily per­for­mance and their abil­i­ties dis­played at school, so­ci­ety and stu­dents’ or­ga­ni­za­tions should also be con­sid­ered by the univer­si­ties. Then, the young peo­ple will have more time to de­velop their aca­demic in­ter­est, and take part in sports ac­tiv­i­ties and so­cial works.

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