This graph shows just how mad the Chinese educational system is. Beata, my second oldest daughter, is collecting data regarding how often the teachers in her classes mention the word “zhongkao,” meaning “high-school entrance exam” in one day. The zhongkao is the big test, coming up in two months from now, which determines which high-school students will go to and thus — such is the theory — the rest of their lives. Consequently all activities, all teaching, all learning, all everything is geared towards this all-important test of math, chemistry, physics and ancient Chinese. Since September zhongkao has been mentioned over 880 times!
Notice that the number of mentions has increased steadily over the last couple of months and now amounts to around 10 a day. Note also that this only includes explicit mentions of the word “zhongkao,” not general references to “tests” or to “highschool preparation,” etc. Like a good social scientist, Beata points out that the peaks in references in October and January coincided with their regular mid-term and finals — times when the exam frenzy was cranked up a notch.
Is there a relationship between studying for exams and actually learning something? Do students have to be threatened with exams in order to learn? What kinds of human beings are produced by this system? Are these the kinds of people that China (or any country) actually needs? What could they be learning if they didn’t spend all their time studying for these exams?
Btw, Beata just did her entrance exam for the school she is going to in Lund, Sweden. The only subjects tested were English and math and it was super easy. These tests are not intended to single out the best students but only to make sure that all students are above a certain minimum level. That makes sense. Yeah, and the high-school she got into was founded in 1085 [sic!] — back in the Viking age over 900 years ago; William the Conqueror could have been an alumnus! — and it’s one of the most famous high-schools in Sweden. Good for Beata!