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Exam reform should stick to cultural tradition and social reality

(People's Daily Online)

16:34, June 05, 2013

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

The annual university entrance exam is approaching. Nearly 9 million students will be participating in the exam this year. The university entrance exam is a social phenomenon since it is closely related to everyone's interests and performance of many high schools and local governments and it is related to the fairness in education and maintenance social order.

The university entrance exam is a selective exam featuring fierce competition, highly-related to personal interests and high risks. Every year in the exam season, the exam will become the priority for governments at every level. Every walk of the society is at its service, even the Shanghai Cooperation Organization would postponed its meeting by one hour for the university entrance exam. To grantee the exam held smoothly, construction can be paused, traffic can be controlled. In some cities, taxi drivers offer free service, while some other cities keep broadcasting the news about the exam on TV. All these make people exclaim that China really is a country of exams.

As British scholar Robert Montgomery pointed out in the book The New Exploration of Examinations, Britain is a country with exam fever. The influence of the examination is so profound that only historians' help can solve this complicated issue. "Examinations has firmly held its position, eliminating them is even more impossible to achieve than eliminating the Bonfire and Christmas."

In China, influence of examinations is bigger than in Britain. Examination has been playing a vital role in life of students since ancient times, be it the Ke Ju before or the university entrance exam now. The university entrance exam is an important social activity, concerning the livelihood of people. It is beyond a simple exam and has become a phenomenon connecting education and society. It is closely related to the personal interests of thousands of people, since the exam actually relates to their career and lifestyle in the future.

The national exam for Chinese people is a hot topic which will never be out; and it will always become the focus as the exam and admission time approach. All media is focusing on the exam. If something happens in one exam room or happens to one student, especially some incidents, they will immediately be on cover page. Therefore, all the students, their parents and teachers are watching with all their attention; and the organizing and administrative staff of the exam is extremely careful and discreet with all related works.

Examinations are with people all the time currently in China. One has to take many different exams since his/her childhood. For some people, exams are with them all their life, so there is a saying in China "exams are common and equal to necessities in life". With exams, there come opportunities, which are often for self-development and promotion. Some exams are must-to-dos in your life and the university entrance exam is always the most important one that people have had.

Despite its limitations, the university entrance exam is the most proper national examination under China's reality. It brings burden and pressure to student and competition for high schools; however, since it offers the fairest competition regime among all approaches, it also has functions of reducing social conflicts and purifying the social ethos. The university entrance exam is a matter of interests of every family and achieving the target of building the comprehensive well-off society.

As a result of traditional Chinese culture and current social situation, the current university entrance exam system has reasons to exist. The culture decides our exam and admission system; and the social reality decides our exam and admission approaches. The reform to the university entrance exam cannot be separated from traditional Chinese culture and current social reality; it has to relate to every aspect of Chinese society. Only by doing so, the reform proposals we make on the university entrance exam will not be detached to reality and become practical and feasible.

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