Students at reform university refuse to take test

Students at the South University of Science and Technology of China are refusing to take the national college entrance examination.

Known as gaokao in Chinese, the test is required by the country’s education authority.

But the 45 students at the reform-based school wrote an open letter on the Internet saying the exam was “inappropriate” for them.

“It was a major boost for me when I heard the students wrote an open letter challenging the entrance exam,” said Zhu Qingshi, president of the unique university.

“The students made me feel hopeful about the country’s education reform, and they are even more brave than some adults, officials and teachers,” Beijing Times quoted Zhu as saying on Monday.

South University of Science and Technology of China opened in 2009 with sponsorship from the Shenzhen government. It has been regarded nationwide as the pioneer of China’s education reform for its ambitious goal of cultivating innovative talent.

The university recruited the first class of 45 students in March on its own – without taking part in the gaokao like every other college in the country. It has also decided to grant its own academic diplomas, though they are not recognized by the government.

“The university grants its own academic diplomas to encourage us that society recognize us only if we have strong capabilities, not for the shining diplomas we get from a recognized university,” the open letter said.

Xu Mei, spokesperson with the Ministry of Education, said that the university should ensure its reform is in accordance with law and the country’s basic education system to protect students’ rights.

“The education in the university is like an experiment for independent student recruitment and independent diploma granting, and the 45 students were gambling their futures on our success. If we let them go back to the national exam now, the experiment loses its meaning and is definitely a big shock for the students,” Zhu said.

The university allowed the students to chose whether to take the exam, although the results would not affect their admission.

Yang Xin, a student at the university, said she would attend classes as usual on Tuesday and Wednesday when the gaokao is going on. And another student, Qie Boyu, went back to his home in Chengdu, Sichuan province, to show his determination to give up the exam.

“Independent recruitment is one of the major reforms of the university. If the students take part in the college entrance exam, the efforts to modify the current education system will be destroyed,” said Zhang Ming, a professor of the Renmin University of China and a famous educational columnist.

“The current education law is outdated and cannot fit the new conditions, which is the reason South University of Science and Technology of China is exploring new possibilities. If it reaches a compromise with the existing system, it will leave no space for exploration,” he told China Daily.

On a poll posted on a Sina micro blog on Monday, 78 percent supported the university granting its own degrees, 14 percent opposed the idea and 8 percent adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

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