Gaokao “high test” in China


Reading the New York Times Inside a Chinese Test-Prep Factory. Then I searched Maotanchang on google, two more article emerged:

  • NYT, by Brook Larmer on DEC. 31, 2014 has 278 comment
  • Business Insider, by Harrison Jacobs  on Oct 18, 2013 garnered 2 comments
  • Foreign Policy, by Rachel Lu on Oct 11, 2013 has 720 shares

My comment on the article. I hope I’m ok at math here: According to wiki, as of Jan 2, 2015, the population in China is 1,367,440,000 (19% of the world, ranked at top) and USA has 320,105,000 (4.44% of the world, ranked as 3rd after India). SO .. China’s total population is 77% more than USA but their student body and exam takers are only 32% and 61% more respectively. Meaning USA has more kids and more exam takers.

total pop student pop exam takers
China, 1st 1,367,440,000 31,000,000 9,000,000
USA, 3rd 320,105,000 21,000,000 3,500,000
my math: 76.59% 32.26% 61.11%

Screenshot 2015-01-03 11.56.57 Screenshot 2015-01-03 12.02.23 Screenshot 2015-01-03 12.21.10 Screenshot 2015-01-03 11.56.26

Two, the 1300 years long keju system is a great mention here since it was very fair because it opened to everyone, rich and poor and it did not reserve a quota for the alumni (not a critic of the USA system but making a comparison). Also the fact that keju was so admired by the Western observers, according to the Cambridge Encyclopedia of China, “the introduction in 1855 of competitive written examinations for entry into the British civil service, and their adoption in 1883 for the United States service were very probably the indicted result of respect for an institution that had been a feature of Chinese political and cultural life for more than two millennia.” I’ve not a supporter nor a distractor, before anyone could come up a better solution, gaokao will remain.

Today, more than nine million students take the gaokao each year (fewer than 3.5 million, combined, take the SAT and the ACT). ..
The radical expansion of the education system has tripled the number of Chinese universities and has pushed China’s student population to 31 million — greater than any country in the world. (The United States has 21 million.) And every student must first pass the gaokao.

Xu grew up as one of China’s 60 million “left behind” children, raised by his grandparents while his parents worked as migrant fruit sellers in the distant city Wuxi. His grandfather summoned his parents home to Hongjing village, however, when Xu spun out of control in middle school — skipping classes, sneaking out with his friends, becoming obsessed with video games. The family income dropped when his mother stopped working to devote herself to his education. Despite bearing down to please his mother, Xu still faltered on the high-school entrance exam, ruining his chance to get into the region’s best high schools. His mother was so upset that she barely spoke to him for days. With few options left for high school, Xu turned to Maotanchang. “I only knew that the school was very strict, to the point that some students had supposedly committed suicide,” he told me. “That convinced me. I didn’t believe I could discipline myself otherwise.”

Yang was just waking up when his mother knocked on his window. His luggage was packed the night before — a small bag for clothes, a bigger one for books — but his grandfather seemed agitated. He had wanted to leave earlier to avoid the hundreds of cars and buses that would snarl traffic in town. But there was another reason for his testiness: Somebody — a school official? a neighbor? — had warned him that he would get in trouble for speaking with me. A year after trumpeting its success in the Chinese press, Maotanchang was now seeking a lower profile, in accordance with the Chinese adage that “people fear fame like a pig fears getting fat.” Now, with a trembling voice, Yang’s grandfather asked me to leave. I bid the family farewell and, from a distance, watched them pile into the bread-loaf truck for Yang’s final gaokao journey. As they passed, his father gave a quick toot of the horn.

“Ma dao cheng gong,” which means “success when the horse arrives.”

Weeks later, when the gaokao results were released, I called Yang. After our last encounter, I feared that he might have stumbled in the exam — and that my presence would be partly to blame. But instead, Yang sounded ecstatic. His score far surpassed his recent practice tests.

About The Kibbitzer

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