On May 24th, 1977, the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping delivered a speech entitled "Respect Knowledge, Respect Talents". In it, he indicated the entrance exam might be re-introduced, which had been stopped a decade before by the Cultural Revolution.
Later that winter, more than five million candidates aged between 15 and 36 sat the exam. Dai Jiagan was one of them.
Dai Jiagan, director of Exam Center,Ministry of Education, said, "I was teaching in a rural high school when we heard about the exam. That was really exciting. I knew I needed more knowledge to teach, so I left my students and went back to school."
He then went on to work in the field of education. Years of experience have made him come to understand the true significance of the move.
Dai Jiagan said, "Personally, I think Deng Xiaoping's idea was based on human development and the care of people. Human beings have the rights to develop, and having access to education is an essential part of it."
Over the last three decades, around 36 million students have been admitted to universities, colleges, and vocational and technical schools across China. The enrollment rate has risen from single digit 30 years ago to more than fifty percent.
But students all have to find employment after graduation. And Dai believes that's something that must be taken into account with further reforms.
Dai Jiagan said, "The exam should be based more on the needs of society. Knowledge is important, but the ability to learn is more crucial in the long run. The exam should be a comprehensive evaluation of a person. So, to this extent, we cannot select talent according to the results of just one exam."
Thirty years on, it's hoped that the entrance exam brings not only college certificates, but also improvement of education quality and more choices for the future.
(CCTV December 19, 2008)