If you think high stakes student testing is out of control in the U.S… hold on to your #2 pencil, because there’s a whole new level of crazy we haven’t gotten to yet.
The Chinese gaokao, more formally known as The National Higher Education Entrance Examination, is a “make or break” test for high school students. It not only determines if they will be allowed to go on to college, but also seals the deal on which colleges they may attend. This is the test that determines futures. This is the sole means by which students are evaluated for college admission.
High stakes testing mixed with human nature is bound to lead to cheating. According to this article from BBC News, Chinese testing security measures include closed-circuit television, metal detectors, and tracking the delivery of exam materials via GPS. However, this year, officials in Luoyang City, located in central China, upped the ante by using drones to detect cheaters. The Washington Post reports that students cheat by using a pen that can snap photos of test questions and send them to an accomplice who then transmits the correct answers via an earpiece. The drones or “unmanned aerial vehicles” can pick up the signals and report the cheating activity to test proctors.
Educational reformers blame rampant cheating on the importance placed on this one single test. The Christian Science Monitor quotes Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research institute, as saying, “The real problem is that the government is still hesitant to give up its power over the education system, from school operations to exams and enrollment.” Bingqi adds, “If colleges can’t establish their own applicant evaluation system based on their needs, in which student’s high school credits, graduation exam scores, and enrollment interview performance are all taken into consideration, the goodwill of the current reform plans will not matter.”
Too many parts of China’s educational system are chillingly similar to the current educational climate in the United States. There is an increased push for student promotion and graduation, teacher salaries, and school funding to hinge on the results of standardized testing. Educators caught up in the Atlanta cheating scandal are doing prison time, providing an extreme example of the consequences of testing pressure.
As of now, students in the United States have a variety of colleges and universities to choose from. College admissions staff looks at the student as a whole person, taking various factors into consideration. This is the system that Chinese reformers long to move toward. And this is the system that we must fight to preserve.