Domestic Affairs

Treat top Gaokao scorers with a cool head

By Shan Xueying (
Updated: 2010-07-02 08:57
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With the Gaokao results being announced, competition for Gaokao zhuangyuan, or top scorers, is in full swing among universities, schools, business and media in almost all provinces. Top Gaokao scorers become instant celebrities, worshiped by millions of people around the country.

The hype over top Gaokao scorers is as strong as ever this year. China's most prestigious universities vie to attract those talents. Tsinghua and Peking universities, the top two universities in China, have increased their scholarships to 40,000 yuan and 50,000 yuan, aimed at luring zhuangyuans. Guangdong University of Foreign Studies even offers a scholarship as high as 120,000 yuan and exemption from tuition fees for four years to woo the top Gaokao scorers.

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Zhuangyuans' alma maters, from elementary school to high school, participate in the hype. They put up posters and banners at their campus gates, hold news conferences, on one hand to show off their performance, on the other to bring in more students. The more Gaokao zhuangyuan a school cultivates the higher fees it can charge, which is widely acknowledged in education circles.

In the meantime, media and business also join the craze by turning the once ordinary students into celebrities. The top Gaokao scorers are constantly being interviewed by radio and television and answer a variety of questions from their life details to the key to exam success, to meet the demands of those insatiable parents who want their children to stand out in the exams. Some profit-making companies seize the opportunity to make use of Gaokao zhuangyuan to promote their products.

In reality, the "top in exams" don't always end up "top in career." A survey that kept track of more than 1,000 top scorers from 1977 to 2008 found that none of the top Gaokao zhuangyuan stood out in the field of academics, business or politics, failing to live up to people's expectations.

Unlike in China, in America the "top in exams" are not always given special attention. Relevant data show that among those who scored full marks in the American SAT (similar to China's college entrance) and applied to Harvard University, as much as 61% are rejected. It also happens at Yale University, Stanford University and other prestigious American universities. The scores are not the only factor involved, and depending on the school, maybe not particularly important. Grades, essays, examples of volunteering or participation in extracurricular activities also influence admissions decisions.

Once the hype over zhuangyuan fades, we can notice that our school evaluation system remains examination-oriented instead of quality-oriented education. It cannot truly reflect the ability of a person and foresee a person's future.

Administrative rules will do little to stop the mass hype over the top Gaokao scorers and results. Only by promoting the multi-assessment system and introducing a new Gaokao system that involves independent enrollment of universities and multiple choices for students will the problems of the examination-oriented education be rooted out.