High schools to introduce
By Fang Ning, Wu Zhendong and Gao Nan
A number of high schools in east China’s Zhejiang Province and Shanghai will introduce a new program that allows students to have more choice in education as the country pilots reforms aimed at changing exam-centered education.
Last week, China’s Ministry of Education announced a slew of reform measures on the National College Entrance Exam, or the Gaokao, asking universities not to base their judgement of applicants solely on Gaokao scores on three major subjects — math, Chinese and English — but taking consideration of comprehensive assessments on selective classes as well as evaluations on morality standards, physical health, art cultivation and social practices.
Zhejiang and Shanghai were designated as testing grounds for the reforms, which will allow students to select their own courses based on their interests. Starting next year, the first selective classes will begin at several high schools in the two provinces.
Chen Weixin, enrollment administration office teacher of Shanghai Fudan Secondary School, said the school will open six selective classes including politics, history, geography, physics, chemistry and life sciences for senior one students.
The students can make the decision on which three classes they want to choose to have the final scores included in their Gaokao scores at the end of the second senior one semester.
Chen said the new systems also allows academically gifted students to advance to a higher-level class according to their performance.
Shanghai Shibei Secondary School also confirmed they will change their curriculum to align with the Gaokao reform beginning next year.
The school’s principal Chen Jun said they have already opened opportunity classes for gifted students. Next year, the school will further specify curriculum changes involving the new selective classes.
Based on Shanghai’s education reform plan, in 2017 higher learning institutions will have the freedom to enroll students with special academic gifts rather than simply considering the unified exam scores.
Under the new enrollment scheme, colleges may favor a student by taking into consideration the score of one of the student’s three selective classes.
Ye Zhiming, principal of Shanghai University, said the reform gives universities more autonomy in choosing gifted students to study their specialized subjects.
China’s national college entrance exam, though offering fairness in selecting high-score students for the country’s limited higher education resources, has long been scolded for suffocating creativity. With the exam a major part of college enrollment, China’s secondary education has become focused on training students to obtain high scores on the Gaokao.
The selective-class teaching method breaks the traditional fixed class arrangement in Chinese high schools, and encourage students to plan for their academic future from the secondary school education, said Chi Xuewei, principal of the Changchun Experimental Secondary School in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province.
Chi has been closely following the education experiments in Zhejiang and Shanghai.
“Under the current system, students bury themselves in study for 12 years of primary and secondary education, and only start to think what they would do in the future after the Gaokao,” said Chi.
He said the reform will help inspire student potential and encourage in-depth pursuit of their gifted subjects.
China’s first high school student occupational planning center was inaugurated in Changchun earlier this month. The center provides consultation for students, their parents and schools to map out an academic pass for a high school student.
Zhang Yuying, a student with the Changchun Experimental Secondary School, said after the center’s consultation has helped her pinpoint a university based on her dream and academic merits.