Test on educational reform

China Daily, June 7, 2011

For most high school graduates who sit the national college entrance exam today, how to make the best of what they have learned is their utmost concern.

Yet, for the 45 who have been enrolled by the newly approved South University of Science and Technology of China (SUSTC) in Shenzhen, the question is whether or not to take the exam as required by the Ministry of Education.

The first ever university in the country that is independently run by a council jointly established by the municipal government and some educationists and which enrolls students on its own is now in an embarrassing situation.

Zhu Qingshi, the university president, said frankly that its reform would be meaningless if the 45 students took part in the national entrance exam, because it would mean their return to the dominant education system. But Zhu said that the decision was up to the students.

This independent university is meant to blaze a new trail in the country's higher education. It wants to see whether there can be another way of running a university, which will be able to cultivate all-round talented graduates.

But even if the 45 students abstain from the national exam, the long-standing entrance examination system will remain as important as ever for millions of high school graduates.

With the majority of institutions of higher learning under the auspice of the Ministry of Education in one way or another, there is no better way, at least at present, than the unified national entrance exam to guarantee the equality and fairness for students to get the higher education they are entitled to in accordance with their capability, despite repeated calls for reform of the examination system.

As it is far too complicated to reform the country's higher education in an extensive manner for the most efficient use of its resources, it may be sensible to let the new-style university go its own way and see whether it can do better.

The SUSTC has it own way of enrolling students and it designs its own curriculum. It has established a council consisting of educationists and local government officials. This council will be granted the mandate to make decisions on important matters concerning the school's teaching and operation.

The way the university operates on its own and the experience it accumulates in doing so may provide food for thought for the country's reform of its higher learning system.

So as students take the national entrance examination today, let's offer our best wishes to any students who are willing to go their own way as long as they are heading to the same destination.