There were headlines when Shanghai high school students outscored their counterparts on an international standardized test. China came out on top — but it was no surprise to people familiar with China’s education system.
"The entire system is geared toward that one goal — taking a test," said Yasheng Huang, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "But when it comes to other barometers of success, they fall short. In terms of imaginative talking, coming up with good ideas, taking risks, those are actually very weak."
In junior high, they write the zhongkao -"middle test" – to get placed in a good high school. In high school, the stakes are higher with the gaokao – "high test."
ABC News reports that failure or low scores on the test send many students back to high school for one more year of gaokao preparation.