Thursday, June 5, 2008

Know thy competition: China's SAT

Slate.com has an article by an American educator teaching at a Chinese university. She talks about China's SAT similar to the universalized Scholastic Aptitude Test used for undergrad admissions in US colleges.

Gaokao, meaning 'high test', is adjusted to each of China's provinces (Tibet is one!) and is apparently considerably tough, especially in Beijing and Shanghai.

Of particular interest:
Getting into a top-tier university such as Beijing's Tsinghua or Peking University—the former the alma mater of four of the nine members of China's current Politburo, the latter China's oldest university—might lead to an interview with a major multinational or an elite political gig.
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Scores determine one's major as much as alma mater. Tsinghua, "the MIT of China," has an internationally renowned engineering program, so gaokao minimums are out of this world. To enter Tsinghua's software engineering department in 2007, students needed a score of at least 680, out of top scores in the low 700s, depending on the province. (Consider that in Shandong Province, the highest 2007 score was 675.) The software engineering program at Xibei Sciences University, in Xi'an Province, demanded just 442.
Apparently, you've to apply to the universities without knowing your scores, or take a break for an year, implicitly suggesting the extent of confidence the universities expect from their applicants.

Of course, there are certain similarities(with Indian system):
Essentially, Chinese universities accept those students who are good at taking tests. This makes sense for an educational system historically oriented toward rote learning, where students are tested on how well they've memorized their teachers' lectures.
But, they are trying to change, vigorously at that.

The Chinese have been on a nation-building spree for a while now. Importing coaches for olympic sports for getting gold medals(“Silver? It means nothing here; you might as well finish last,” Soviet coach Grinko said), educators to house their universities and schools, managers for their businesses, China is galloping ahead at a scary rate.

1 comment:

dosabandit said...

I once received an e-mail forward with pictures of Chinese childern being literally squeezed to prepare for competitive sports. Not sure how authentic the e-mail was. But then its China. When they can harvest human organs, this doesn't seem to far fetched.