Is it good to abolish test rankings?

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Beijing Review, April 25, 2021
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The Ministry of Education (MOE) recently released a draft document on the protection of minors. Several of its sections barring primary and middle schools from ranking students based on their examination scores have so far triggered heated debate, particularly among parents with school-going children.

Some believe that the elimination of such rankings will help bolster students' pride and self-esteem. Children in primary schools are psychologically still unformed and thus prone to the side-effects from test rankings. For those who get bad grades in examinations, the shame and blows to self-confidence stemming from poorer score rankings are especially impactful.

However, others argue that at a time when examinations are still the most important measure of a student's academic performance, and China's college entrance examinations are based on scores, the cancellation of rankings in primary and middle schools is equivalent to burying one's head in the sand.

Liu Ranran (Guangzhou Daily): To ban rankings based on test scores means to alleviate anxiety among both students and parents. This is a big step toward quality-oriented education. Meanwhile, the overall education evaluation system should also receive an overhaul. Apart from testing students, the academic performance of schools and teachers alike should be taken into assessment.

At the same time, it's necessary to warn against the power of ranking students being transferred from schools to training agencies. These agencies might take advantage of the power to spur on students and parents to spend more money on their courses, as the schools are no longer allowed to do so.

Zhang Zhiquan (Yunnan Daily): The ranking of students according to their test scores tends to push them into fierce competition. As a result, ordinary students, especially those who fall behind more easily, will be subject to extreme anxiety, in turn undermining their psychological health. The elimination of the ranking system will ensure that students experience more freedom and joy during their compulsory education period, instead of being haunted by test scores. More importantly, it completely refutes the score-centered education model. After all, students differ from each other in terms of personal capacity. Test scores are not able to fully reflect a student's individual qualities and capabilities.

A highlight of the draft is that the ministry elevates the ban to the level of protecting the students' right to personal character. It means that if schools continue to expose test rankings on their own, this will constitute a violation of a student's personal rights, entailing legal liabilities.

Ni Ni ( Since the MOE has proposed this policy, we believe that it must be helpful to the students, mostly. However, every coin comes with two sides, otherwise the document would not prompt this level of debate.

To ban the rankings will help protect students' self-esteem. Most minors are psychologically vulnerable. When the scores and rankings are announced, they'll easily get stressed out if they rank way down the list and thus might even become weary of learning overall. In this sense, without the rankings, the students' enthusiasm for learning, as well as their self-confidence, will receive more protection.

However, while helping to protect students' self-esteem, the absence of such a ranking system may easily blind them to their deficiencies in terms of their academic work. They might become overly self-confident and their satisfaction with the status quo might in turn further drag them behind others.

Although the ministry plans to ban the rankings across primary and middle schools, college enrollment is based on college entrance examination scores as well as a score ranking list within their province. In this sense, to cancel the rankings or not will not fundamentally change their future. 

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