Experts Appeal for Fairer University Admissions for Rural Students

June 12, 2017
Editor: Yang Yang

Gov't should delegate recruitment power to universities: experts

Despite being touted as a second chance for more disadvantaged rural students to get into top Chinese universities, education experts have criticized independent college recruitment tests for still favoring already privileged urban students.

Ninety colleges across China on Sunday conducted independent recruitment tests just after last week's rigorous national college entrance examinations, or gaokao was held, which many still feel is the only way to change their lives for the better.

According to recruitment documents posted online, top Chinese universities, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and the Renmin University of China will hold tests from Sunday to Thursday. The tests have a written component, as well as a focus on students' extra-curricular achievements, such as music or sport.

The independent recruitment system was established in 2003, and allows certain universities to recruit students using their own standards. All students still must take the gaokao, but if they pass the independent exams, this helps their chances of getting into a prestigious school if their gaokao score is low.

Some education experts said the independent tests are a significant reform that will change the fact that "one test decides your future." Others criticized the system for intensifying education inequality, despite government requirements that say the test questions should favor students who come from disadvantaged areas.

Such accusations were fueled in 2015 when Renmin University asked candidates to conduct an experiment or describe their feelings about visiting a museum. Parents of rural students complained this was unfair to those who never had a chance to visit a museum or a laboratory. It sparked public uproar, with many slamming the process, which claims to promote equity, for reinforcing the privileges of urban students.

After checking recruitment lists for Tsinghua and Peking University in 2016, the Global Times found the number of rural students was much lower than that of urban students.

Many rural students and teachers interviewed by the Global Times said that they did not even know about the independent recruitment system and were also unwilling to take the exam due to the inequity of education resources.

"To pass an independent recruitment test, students would have needed quality education from a young age. Urban students have the money to take training courses, but in rural areas, they have to bend over backwards to improve their scores," a middle school teacher in Longchuan county, Guangdong Province was quoted by Outlook magazine, as saying.

"The future direction of China's gaokao reform should emphasize developing independent recruitment tests.

However, to truly promote education equality, the government should delegate the power to universities, allowing them to formulate their standards to select students, instead of delimiting the admission point for them," said Chu Zhaohui, a research fellow at the National Institute of Educational Sciences.

"The basic requirement for gaokao scores does not change, so it's still unfair to rural students," Chu said, despite the independent tests advocating taking other talents into consideration.

More for rural students

China has also released other policies to increase admission quotas for students from central, western and remote rural areas. On April 14, the Ministry of Education asked top universities to do more to find students from rural or poor backgrounds. Universities were told to enroll 10 percent more disadvantaged students in 2017.

Another program in poverty-stricken areas found university places for 183,000 students from impoverished counties from 2012 to 2015.

"The policies also created some problems. Many students in central and western China transferred their urban household registration to rural areas so they could get preferential treatment," said Xiong Bingqi, vice president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute. "The government should do more research on students' family incomes instead of simply counting on their household registration."

Chu noted that when the quota was designated to the rural schools, those powerful or wealthy families still had more chance of getting a university place.

(Source: Global Times)

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