Gaokao May Now Be Holding China Back

Gaokao, the annual nationwide in China, might be holding the world’s fastest developing country back, because the education system built around the memorization-heavy gaokao encourages neither creativity nor entrepreneurship. From Helen Gao at The Atlantic:

In many ways, the gaokao is symbolic of China’s rise, with millions of Chinese striving and competing to pull up themselves and their nation. But it’s also symptomatic of how far China still has to go, as the country tries to shift its economy from exports to domestic consumption, from assembling products to designing them. China’s gaokao-style system has been great at imparting math and engineering, as well as the rigorous work ethic that has been so integral to China’s rise so far. But if the country wants to keep growing, its state economists know they need to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity, neither of which is tested for on this life-determining exam.

The author compares the education system in China with that of the U.S, saying that American high schools emphasize more on developing critical thinking skills, whereas Chinese students are trained to memorize all the key points in the textbook to crack multiple choice questions in exams. Some students have realized the limits of the system and rebelled in their own way. The author invokes Han Han’s experience as an example — the maverick young writer dropped out of high school as he felt that the system “left too little room for his more disruptive style of thinking”. From The Atlantic:

In one essay, he [Han Han] mocked Chinese education, comparing it to “standing in the shower wearing a padded coat.” In other words, he sees it as an exercise absurdly ill-suited to achieving its goals.


Why play soccer or take part in the student council, after all, if it leaves less time for cracking chemistry problems? You live and die by your numbers, starting with your gaokao score, a value system that is reinforced by employers and families alike.

Read more about gaokao via China Digital Times.



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