About 40 percent of the top students in college entrance examinations have chosen overseas universities for their postgraduate studies, according to a survey.
Most of them have stayed overseas after finishing their intended courses, showed a survey that tracked 130 top performers in college entrance exams from 1977 to 1998.
Dubbed zhuangyuan, which means top contestants in the imperial examinations in feudal China, these students have been lauded by the media as examples for their younger peers.
The survey, released on the China Alumni Association website, found it worrying that many of the top students would not stay in China for higher studies despite the country's rapid development in the past few decades.
The government should find better ways to hold back talented students, said Cai Yanhou, a professor with Central South University in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province.
UNESCO figures show Chinese students comprise 14 percent of international students, the highest in the world. Their favorite destinations for higher studies are the US, Britain and Japan. Some experts said handsome scholarships, better job prospects and more opportunities to pursue further studies are the main attractions of foreign universities.
But Cai, who also led the survey team, said "top in exams" does not necessarily mean "top in career" because the study found none of the top students at college entrance exams had become a top Chinese expert or academic.
The entrance exam is just one of the numerous exams a person will go through in his life and that can't foretell his future achievements, said Wang Xuming, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education. He criticized the media hype over the so-called zhuangyuan.
Some of them are just more adaptable to exam-oriented education than their peers, experts said.
The media fill pages and time slots with their "success" stories to gain wider readership and viewership. High schools promote their former students proudly to attract new ones, and universities want to show their superior status by recruiting them, they said.
Wang hoped future reforms would do away with the score-oriented method so that students can be judged from all aspects.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency August 13, 2007)