Examination and Ranking in China
It goes without question that the concept of organized, public, communal education has played a significant role in the development of humankind throughout history. This concept has, however, changed or evolved over time into the present system that demands much more that what in my opinion should be required of the participants. While offering the required tools for development and growth, the current system in my view is lacking in its ability to ensure student performance is maintained without detrimental effects on their physical as well as psychological well-being. This incapability is in my opinion caused by the exclusive utilization of exams as a yardstick to determine the fate of individuals with different learning abilities and predispositions. While the idea of examinations is not completely faulty, its utilization and means of comparison brings out the sensation of life or death for many. Currently, the presentation of student results and performance is a public affair that places the social life as well as acceptance of students at the mercy of their academic performance. With such a scenario in a society governed by financial success that is viewed as being directly proportional to academic success, there emerge two main concerns that require student results to be made private; social concern and stress.
While the idea of pressure is not unique to education only, its prevalence among the academic society in China is appalling. Whereas the Gaoko has been known to have a stressful impact on its participant’s exam fever and its related effects are now being reported in children as young a nine and twelve while yet in primary schools. The desire to succeed has been replaced by a competitive drive to bear the families as well as societies ambitions on one’s shoulders and prove to the best amongst their peers. According to Forster, the level of stress among these youngsters with regard to exam pressure is as high as 80%. Such situations are inevitably the causative factors for psychological and mental breakdowns. This stress emanates from the large amounts of homework, long study hours, and pressure from parents, as well as teachers and the society as a whole, have become the pushing factor for success.
By replacing passion with fear of failure and public humiliation, students are forced into hard work instead of passionate work. Their efforts that are applauded or looked down on come at enormous physical and psychological costs, whose impact is rarely identified, ensuring their struggle with stress remains internal. While this has made the Chinese educational system a global template for successful students, it has also made it an exemplification of the adverse effects of exam pressure and the social implications its publications have on the participants. According to Sigel (45), while such pressure can be viewed in the expression of panic attacks, it can also result in suicidal tendencies, as was the case for one unfortunate examinee. Due to his late arrival at the examination date to the examination hall, the examinee explored the only option that seemed rational, jumping to his death from the 6th floor. The decision to jump was as a result of being only ten minutes late.
The second concern raised by the current examination and result presentation systems is of a social nature. As mentioned before, the prevalent notion in the Chinese society is skewed toward academic and financial success, and in a society of more than 1.3 billion, the stakes are high. Currently, the involvement of parents in student life is immense. Their role has, however, taken new definitions, with their desire for a better life for their offspring leading their demand for competitive performance. While this urge may seem noble, its primary driving factor is economic and social gain. As such, the student views the failure to achieve the desired end as the ultimate expression of deviance and associated themselves with misfits. However, according to Zhao, Selman and Haste (2015), the negative impact of examination ranking is not merely constrained to the society’s view of the examinee, but of the student’s views of one another as well as their opinion toward social good and injustices. Due to the concept of ranking the student fraternity has become so competitive that sharing helpful information is regarded as a loss in competitive leverage. This aspect results in the development of distrust among peers who become fierce rivals, without regard for social imbalances, as the most important issue becomes personal gain (Zhao, Selman and Haste, 2015).
If ten minutes can warrant such action, it is evident that the examination system, the manner of result presentation and the implication that both have on the student psyche is quite significant. Choosing to turn a blind eye to this fact would, therefore, be much costlier over time, than making headway to address the inherent issues that these systems poses. In my opinion, the first step in addressing the causes of exam pressure would be to make examination results a private affair. This is because regardless of the public humiliation one may suffer, only passion and not fear can lead to permanent and perpetual improvement. Hence, public display of results is highly unnecessary.
Foster, Peter. “Third Of Chinese Primary School Children Suffer Stress, Study Finds”. Telegraph.co.uk. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 May 2016.
Sigel, Ben. Stressful Times for Chinese Students. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong,
Zhao, Xu, Robert L. Selman, and Helen Haste. “Academic Stress In Chinese Schools And A Proposed Preventive Intervention Program”. Cogent Education 2.1 (2015): 1-14. Web. 2 May 2016.