Defend fairness of exams

Updated: 2014-06-09 08:10

(China Daily)

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Different people have different expectations of the annual national college entrance exams. But for students who sit the exams, high scores are solely what they expect or hope for. The fact that exam results will make a difference to their future, unless there is a reform to subvert its basic model, points to the stupidity of the argument that the current exams are the culprit for the country's lack of first-class scientists and thinkers.

Finger-pointing at the exam model has resulted in high-pitched demand for reform of the model, but it seems that very few know what kind of changes should be made to the current system, in which candidates' exam results solely decide which universities they will enter.

The autonomy some universities have been granted to enroll a certain percentage of students on their own, for the purpose of paving the way for a multiple means of college enrollment, has actually provided opportunities for rent seeking on the part of both the institutions of higher learning and those who can afford to buy their children's way into prestigious universities.

Whether such autonomy should be taken away from the hands of universities remains a question, but what sparks controversy is the practice by 16 provinces and municipalities including Beijing to give extra scores to exam candidates who are appraised as models of ethical behavior and moral integrity.

The problem is who has the power to decide which student is such a model and what are the criteria. If such a practice is just a way for some people with wealth or other resources to lubricate their children's way into prestigious universities, such a practice will become morally corrupt in the name of giving credit to students that are role models.

It is indeed necessary to make changes to the current exam model so that multiple criteria apply in the enrollment of students. Yet, such changes should never open the door to corruption or erode the fairness of the exams.

If there cannot be enough transparency and supervision over a university's autonomy to enroll students on their own or other ways of appraising the qualities of candidates, the national college entrance exam model may have to remain as it is until the conditions become ripe for reform.

That many Chinese graduates have developed well in the Western countries points to the fact that this exam model is not that bad and does help foster a lot of candidates with excellent talents.