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Web hoax circulates on language test topic

By  Cheng Yingqi and Luo Wangshu  (China Daily)

14:37, June 08, 2012

The word "Spurs" turned into a red-hot search item among Chinese netizens on Thursday.

It had nothing to do with the NBA team Spurs losing to Thunder, but was prompted by a student's hoax about the national college entrance exam, or gaokao.

At noon on Thursday, when the first section of gaokao - Chinese language and literature - came to an end, a message on a micro blog said that the composition topic of Fujian province is "how Spurs win the NBA Western Finals?" The message spread fast on the Internet and raised suspicion.

Later that day, media in Fujian reported that it was an Internet hoax.

"This is definitely a fake message. Maybe someone is just spreading it for fun," said Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of 21st Century Education Research Institute, a nongovernmental research group.

However, the wild attention it raised showed the people's huge interests in the exam, which could help decide the fate of millions.

"Just like last year, the gaokao composition is a high-profile issue for the public," Xiong said.

The gaokao composition requirement has changed a lot through years. In 1977 when the exam was reinstated after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), students were asked to write of their experiences in the past year.

In the 1980s, hot social topics were taken as the themes of the compositions, such as environment protection.

In the 1990s, the compositions focused more on students' perception of life. For example, the 1995 composition asked students to write a dialogue between two birds after reading a fable about birds.

During the past decade, students were required to analyze texts, including news reports and literary works.

"In the 1970s, the writing test was always connected with politics and history. But the initial goal of the writing test is to check students' abilities of observation, thinking and expression," said Xiong, the education expert.

"So, in recent years, more compositions are based on analyzing given material - students do not have to string together useless, hollow words in compliance with a requirement - they are encouraged to make their own assessment based on analysis," Xiong said.

"That is actually the goal of education: to teach students to learn and judge independently," he said.

Xue Xiaolei, a professor at the School of Literature and Journalism at Chongqing Normal University, said the composition topics are always tied with current affairs.

"When China had a major earthquake in 2008, many composition topics were gratitude and forgiveness," she said, adding that composition is a way to evaluate students' overall skills of observing the world and connecting with the society.

"The composition used to require students to write in a certain genre, such as argument. Now, students are welcomed to write in any genre,"said Cai Yiqing , an experienced Chinese teacher at Taizhou No 2 High School in Jiangsu province.

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