In Memory of a Fantastic Era

Today thousands of students flew to Beijing to take part in a special exam; after years of repetition it’s the last time that so many student can pre-enroll in college, pass through their senior year at ease.
The whole system works really ideally in fact.

Every year, millions of (9.15M as of 2012) high-school graduates take National College Entrance Exam, or Gaokao, to get a score, which is (almost) the only criterion for college matriculation. Students will pick a few school, typically three, to deliver his score; admission offices will accept the highest ones that delivered. That’s all. Simple, right?
There’re two exceptions, one of which is called “Protected-Delivery”, or 保送. Students who gain such privilege can use a whole new kind of matriculation system. (The other one is Autonomous Recruitment or 自主选拔 which is fake – typically it gives no more than 60 points of bonus, to the maximum-750 or -900 exam score.)
As of 2012, there’re eight types of student can gain the privilege.
(Unofficial translations)

  • 在高中阶段被评为省级优秀学生的应届高中毕业生; (Students named Provincial Merit Student during high school period.)
  • 高中阶段在全国中学生学科奥林匹克竞赛全国决赛中获得一、二、三等奖的应届高中毕业生; (Student won First, Second or Third prize in the national finals of high school academic olympics during high school period.)
    全国决赛的名称 Name of national Finals

    1. 中国数学奥林匹克; (China Mathematics Olympiad, CMO)
    2. 全国中学生物理竞赛决赛; (China Physics Olympiad, CPhO)
    3. 全国高中学生化学竞赛; (National Chemistry Olympiad, NChO)
    4. 全国青少年信息学奥林匹克竞赛; (National Olympiad in Informatics, NOI)
    5. 全国中学生生物学竞赛。(China National Biology Olympiad, CNBO)
  • 高中阶段在全国中学生学科奥林匹克竞赛省赛区竞赛中获得一等奖的应届高中毕业生。(Students who won First prize in the provincial contest of national academic Olympiad during high school period.)
    省赛区的竞赛名称 Name of provincial contests

    1. 全国高中数学联赛; (National High School Mathematics League)
    2. 全国中学生物理竞赛(省级赛区); (National High School Physics Competition, Provincial Contest)
    3. 全国高中学生化学竞赛(省级赛区); (National High School Chemistry Competition, Provincial Contest)
    4. 全国青少年信息学奥林匹克联赛; (National Olympiad in Informatics in Provinces)
    5. 全国中学生生物学联赛。 (China High School Biology Olympiad)
  • 高中阶段在全国青少年科技创新大赛或”明天小小科学家”奖励活动或全国中小学电脑制作活动中获得一、二等奖的应届高中毕业生; (Students who won First or second prize in China Adolescents Science & Technology Invention Contest (CASTIC) or Awards For Little Scientists Of Tomorrow.)
  • 高中阶段在国际科学与工程大奖赛或国际环境科研项目奥林匹克竞赛中获奖的应届高中毕业生; (Students who won International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) or International Environmental Project Olympiad (IEPO) during high school period.)
  • 根据高校外国语言文学类专业对生源的特殊要求,经教育部批准具有推荐保送生资格的外国语中学仅可向高校的外国语言文学类专业推荐思想品德和学习成绩优秀且 高中阶段均在本校就读的应届高中毕业生; (For the special demands of Foreign Language profession, foreign language high schools authorised by Ministry of Education can recommend students who have excellence study accomplishment and moral cerebration, and studied in that school for the entire high school period, to the Foreign Language and Literature profession of colleges.)
  • 曾获得全国体育比赛前三名、 亚洲体育比赛前六名、世界体育比赛前八名和获得球类集体项目运动健将、田径项目运动健将、武术项目武英级和其他项目国际级运动健将称号的退役运动员; (Retired sportsmen who ranked national games top 3, Asian games top 6 or international games top 8, or participated and won international ball games, track and field games, martial art games and other.)
  • 公安英烈子女。 (The offspring of police officer who sacrificed his life.)

These add up to 9547 students, as of 2012; that is approximately 1‰. (Full list has been published online. )

Why I’m so fond of this?
The reason is quite simple. This is genuine autonomous recruitment, some fresh air in the rigid Chinese education system. Since the student has the privilege, he can go to any college that accept him; therefore the admission offices can arbitrarily select student in their unique ways. The actual situation is similar to the US system, and further developed the process of bilateral selection.

Firstly, colleges invite students to Summer Camps, to let them experience college life there and give tests to further analysis the students’ ability. Some good students are accepted immediately, given the pre-decisive offer, just like Early Decision. Others are asked to state this experience during the later-on application process.
Then, admission officers actively contact students after a new array of privileges were issued, typically after provincial academic competitions. They even arrange interviews within high school. More efficiently, they arrange information sessions and interviews during national academic competition, when all students live in the same hotel. Top institutions passively give exclusive offer, while other colleges, afraid of being unattractive to students, actively give non-binding offers just like Early Action, or something like “this enrollment contract is automatically voided if the student was accepted by Peking University or Tsinghua University in any way”. Parents can also talk directly to admission officers. Everyone has signed one or more paper before walked out of the hotel.
Finally, during December schools arrange on-campus tests and interviews available for most privileged student, and issue offers after the test. Top colleges tacitly arrange their test on the very same date, namely now, making the application Restrictive between them. Others avoid the alignment and welcomes students to participate in many tests. This resembles the typical Regular Application period.
Furthermore, student participants in the official Autonomous Recruitment program can also choose between 60 points bonus or sign matriculate contract immediately, if the college offered both.
After being accepted, either the student is exemplified from taking the Gaokao Exam or his score doesn’t matter at all, depends on provincial regulations.

Due to the importance of the Exam, other students spend one year or even two years solely on preparing for it, to get a better score, or a better college, better future. In case someone failed, he may spend one more year to re-study, to take the test again.
What a waste of time! For those who get pre-accepted in contrast, some people choose to take the Exam as a funny challenge, others including me choose to spend these time on our interests; projects, researches, jobs etc… It’s somewhat similar to a gap year, full of freedom.
After all, reciting books isn’t the best way preparing college, but most people are forced to do so. Sorrowful truth.

Unfortunately the delivery is shrinking. Next year the size of privileged student body will be cut off to less than 500, and much more student will fall to the Exam-based Autonomous Recruiting, which will jugulate the student when he failed the Gaokao Exam. Upon receiving a non-top result (Class-1 Higher Education cutoff line, 重点本科线), he’ll be rejected by the college, and admission office can do nothing about that.

Also since next year the Ministry Of Education will increase the bonus portion of its Autonomous Recruiting program. They claim it to be more fair, as anyone can participate. In my opinion though, the academic Olympiad is fair and even more objective. During a meeting the admission officer of Tsinghua tell us that according to their statistics, delivered students performed better in most aspect than Exam-based enrolled students, so he’s willing to pick students from within us and, more importantly, during the official Autonomous Recruiting the university will consider carefully on those academic contest laureates after the cessation of their privilege next year.

The reason Ministry Of Education chose to stop the privilege is that the society, especially parents, starts to abuse it.
Academic Olympiad has been a noble arena for talented students to compete and prove their abilities. However, since it’s renowned for advantages in matriculation, parents start to blindly ask their children to take part. Furthermore, they force primary school students to learn advanced math, or Olympiad Mathematics, which,according to some research, only 5% of primary school students are fit for learning.It’s enjoyable to learn as a talented and interested students, but painful for others in contrast; the society has criticized much about that.
Even more, some parents and students start to seeking for irregular ways, in other words cheating. They gain advantages during academic competition, typically by buying or stealing exam paper, or in sports game, by modifying scores. In science creation contest some even bribe the judge.
Now the competitions are in a mess; hopefully the removal of direct matriculation bonus can cleanse the conditions.

Although a small or even large part of beneficiaries are corrupted, the system still delivered and protected a considerable number of talented students. It’s a pity that such fantastic era for extraordinary student is fading away, and I’m sure I’ll miss it. We the students have no power or influence to change the trend, though.
I sincerely hope the educational system will continue to evolve into something protective and efficient, and make High School a more meaningful and happy period of time.


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