Giving less weight to English tests a first step in reform

By Ni Tao
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, October 24, 2013
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It is reported that education authorities in Beijing, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces are mulling reforms of Gaokao, or college entrance exam, and Zhongkao, or high school entrance exam. While they vary in content and scale, it is notable that these mooted reforms share something in common: whittling down English as a tested subject and reducing its weight in overall admissions test scores.

Beijing has gone the furthest among all the reformers. Starting in 2016, the points for English as a main tested subject of the Beijing Gaokao will drop from the current 150 to 100. The total score remains 750.

Also in Beijing, the Zhongkao English will also have its points shaved, from 120 to 100.

According to education officials, after the reforms take effect, English tests will be administered twice a year, and students can sit them multiple times, with their best scores included in the total Gaokao scores.

The reform has been greeted with both plaudits and brickbats. After interviewing a few local students, the Beijing News reported on Tuesday that students who excelled at English perceive the dwindling weight of English, a subject taught to every Chinese student from primary school to university, as a blow to their competitive strengths.

Those who view English as their nemesis applaud the flexibility in terms of how the test is taken.

Not a favorite subject

The latter group seems to be the majority, considering that English isn’t many Chinese students’ favorite subject.

According to a survey on, a major web portal, 82.6 percent of the respondents are in favor of watering down the significance of English. Some even suggest dropping it from Gaokao altogether.

Recently I have been coaching my ninth-grader cousin in English. He is preparing for Zhongkao next year. Despite my best efforts, he had a harrowing time memorizing the past and perfect tenses of verbs and other simple grammatical rules. I watched as he suffered, and ended up concluding that he really wasn’t cut out for the language. So why make him suffer?

The new arrangement is commendable in many aspects. Chinese students like my cousin have been dedicating way too much time and energy to a language most of them won’t use much in their future careers.

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