National Obsession in Higher Education Entrance Examination

 

Chinese Society  Updated:Sun, Jan 13, 2013 07:40 AM   By Bernd Chang

 

The Chinese National Higher Education Entrance Examination, or National College Entrance Examination, or commonly known as Gao Kao (高考), is an academic examination held annually in the mainland China. This examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all higher education institutions at the undergraduate level.

The Chinese National Higher Education Entrance Examination, or National College Entrance Examination, or commonly known as Gao Kao (高考), is an academic examination held annually in the mainland of the People's Republic of China. This examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all higher education institutions at the undergraduate level. It is usually taken by students in their last year of high school, although there has been no age restriction since 2001.

The overall mark received by the student is generally a weighted sum of their subject marks. The maximum possible mark varies wildly from year to year and also varies from province to province.

Tertiary education entrance examinations started in the early years when modern universities emerged in China, and continued after the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 until the Cultural Revolution began in 1966 when the normal pace of the education system and other sectors of life were disrupted.

The unified national college entrance examination in 1952 marked the start of reform of National Matriculation Tests (NMT) Policies in the newly established PRC. On July 1966, the NMT was officially canceled and substituted by a new admission policy of recommending workers, farmers and soldiers to college. During the next ten years, the Down to the Countryside Movement, initiated by Mao Zedong, forced both senior and junior secondary school graduates, the so-called "intellectual youths", to go to the country and work as farmers in the villages.

In late 1977, Deng Xiaoping, then under Hua Guofeng, the heir apparent of Mao, officially resumed the traditional examination based on academics, the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, which has continued to the present day.

The first such examination after the Cultural Revolution took place in late 1977 and was a history-making event. There was no limit on the age and official educational background of examinees. The total number of candidate students for the national college entrance exam in 1977 was as many as 5.7 million, the admission ratio of 4.8% was the lowest in the history of the PRC, with only 272,971 students being admitted.

Starting from 1978, the examination was uniformly designed by the Ministry of Education and all the students across the country took the exact same examination. Later the ministry of education allow individual provinces to customize their own exams.Till now, there have been 16 provinces and municipalities adopting customized exams.

The National Higher Education Entrance Examination is graded variously across the country. It is arranged at the end of the spring semester and secondary school graduates across the country take the examination simultaneously over a three day period. Prior to 2003, the examination was held in July from 7 to 9, but has since been moved to the month of June. This move was made in consideration of the adverse effects of hot weather on students living in southern China and possible flooding during the rainy season in July.

Since 1977 when the Gao Kao was resumed after the cultural revolution, the enrollment has kept a steady increase year by year. In 1999, China started a great-leap forward in the higher education, aiming to offer higher eduction as a universal education for the public. That year, the enrollment in Chinese higher eduction institutions jumped by almost 50% from 1.08 million to 1.6 million. In 2008, the enrollment stood at 6 million, six times that of a decade ago. Accordingly, the admission ratio has kept rising. In 2011, the total number of admitted is planned to be 6.75 million, while the total registered participants stood at 9.33 million. Accordingly the admission ratio 72% has broken a new record in Chinese higher eduction history.

According to Chinese Ministry of Education, the coverage rate for higher eduction in China was 26.5% in 2010, which means more than one in four person aged between 18 - 22 are studying in higher education institutions. In 1977, the coverage rate was estimated to be slightly more than 1%. China expects the higher education coverage rate will be about 35% in 2015.

The number of registered parcipants in Kao Gao peaked in 2008 at a record 10.5 million. The number decreased then year by year thanks to China's rigid one-child birth control policy.

The respective number of participants, enrollment, and admission ratio since 1977 are listed below.

Year Number of participants (10 thousand) No. of admitted (10 thousand) Admission ratio (%)
1977 570 27.3 4.79
1978 610 40.2 6.59
1979 468.5 28.4 6.06
1980 333 28 8.41
1981 259 28 10.81
1982 187 32 17.11
1983 167 39 23.35
1984 164 48 29.27
1985 176 62 35.23
1986 191 57 29.84
1987 228 62 27.19
1988 272 67 24.63
1989 266 40 15.04
1990 283 61 21.55
1991 296 62 20.95
1992 303 75 24.75
1993 286 98 34.27
1994 251 90 35.86
1995 253 93 36.76
1996 241 97 40.25
1997 278 100 35.97
1998 320 108 33.75
1999 288 160 55.56
2000 375 221 58.93
2001 454 260 57.27
2002 527 320 60.72
2003 613 382 62.32
2004 729 447 61.32
2005 877 504 57.47
2006 950 546 57.47
2007 1010 567 56.14
2008 1050 599 57.05
2009 1020 629 61.67
2010 947 657 69.38
2011 933 675 72.35
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