Rote testing threatens innovation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 12:00am

As more students opt for HK degrees, campus chiefs say mainland entrance exams ignore creativity

University chiefs have called for changes to admission procedures to attract more creative students.

Their remarks come amid public debate on the quality of the mainland's universities, with media reporting that more top-notch students are choosing to earn degrees in Hong Kong.

Speaking at a forum in Shanghai, university chiefs said admissions tests rewarded rote learning but ignored other qualities such as creativity and ethical beliefs, Xinhua reported.

'China will have no innovation talent if we don't reform the college entrance examination,' Zhu Qingshi , the outspoken head of the Chinese Science and Technology University, was quoted as saying at the week-long Chinese-Foreign University Presidents Forum.

He said the university entrance exam had become a tool for local governments to boast of their achievements, and some even offered rewards of up to 500,000 yuan to students who made it into certain elite schools, China Youth Daily reported.

Professor Zhu suggested local authorities hold uniform, province-wide exams at the end of each term, with the results counting during the admissions process.

'To reform the university enrolment system is not to abolish the entrance exam but to change the practice by which one single exam determines the future of a student,' Professor Zhu said. The exam process was necessary because it was the only way for rural students to secure a place, he said.

Ji Baocheng , the president of Beijing's Renmin University, said the results-oriented admissions system failed to take students' other qualities, such as their moral standards, into consideration.

'The Ministry of Education requires students to be selected according to their entrance exam result, but I really have doubts about that,' he said. 'And secondary schools usually make formulaic comments on students' conduct. It's very hard to train innovative talent when tertiary institutes can't even design their own curriculum.'

The competition for places at mainland universities and colleges has eased slightly in recent years, with more places being made available. According to Xinhua, the number of university students has increased from 12.3 million to 23 million in the past five years.

This year, 8.8 million high-school students are competing for 2.6 million undergraduate places.

Over the past two months, mainland media have highlighted the growing trend towards top mainland students opting to further their education in Hong Kong, with some saying the popularity of the city's universities would reduce top mainland institutions such as Peking and Tsinghua universities to 'second-class status'. This has sparked criticism of the mainland's tertiary education system, with some saying rigid teaching methods have failed to encourage innovation and critical thinking.