[photopress:Civilserviceexam1.jpg,full,alignright]It must be a bit disheartening for Chinese universities to know that a survey shows that about 40% of the top students in college entrance examinations have chosen overseas universities for their postgraduate studies.
The survey, which was released on the China Alumni Association website, also shows that most of them have stayed overseas after finishing their intended courses. The survey tracked 130 top performers in college entrance exams from 1977 to 1998.
Called zhuangyuan, which meant top contestants in the imperial examinations in feudal China (our illustration shows them waiting for exam results) these students have been praised by the media as examples for other students. That is for their success in their examinations, not for their propensity to nick off overseas and then stay there.
The survey, understandably, found it worrying that many of the top students would not stay in China for higher studies despite the country’s rapid development in the past few decades.
Cai Yanhou, a professor with Central South University in Changsha, Hunan Province, said the government should find better ways to keep the talented students studying in China.
It is not just this survey which emphasizes this trend. UNESCO figures show Chinese students comprise 14% of international students, the highest percentage in the world. Their favorite destinations for higher studies are the United States, Britain and Japan.
However, all may not be what it seems. Success in academic examinations does not always equal success in other areas. Cai Yanhou, who led the survey team, said ‘top in exams’ does not necessarily mean ‘top in career’. The study found none of the top students at college entrance exams had become a top Chinese expert or academic.
Wang Xuming, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education, said the entrance exam is just one of the numerous exams a person will go through in his life and that can’t foretell his future achievements. He criticized the media hype over the so-called zhuangyuan. On the other hand the tradition of revering students for excellent results in examinations dates back to the imperial system in feudal times and it can hardly be expected to be eradicated overnight.
It is true that some people are better at examinations than others. The writer has never passed an examination of any sort and yet has managed to struggle through. In many cases, people who attain high success in examinations do not manage to carry that forward throughout their life.
For example, Bill Gates has still not finished his university education and there are many, many other examples.
Wang Xuming hoped future reforms would do away with the score-oriented method so that students can be judged from all aspects. That is probably the impossible dream.
Where there is an immense mass of students to judge individual evaluations become almost impossible. And it is certainly impossible to make judgments about who will be successful in later life.
Examinations may be imperfect as a way of measuring ability — but no one has yet demonstrated a better method.
Source: China Daily
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