Should China’s college exams seek “political correctness” or “truthfulness”?
Each year, Mainland China’s National College Entrance
Exam (NCEE) becomes a hot topic for it’s essay topics,
usually receiving more criticism than compliment
from the public.
Experts say that if the essay topics continue to
deviate from or try to cover up reality,
China’s education system will be ruined.
Recently, many Chinese netizens joined the debate,
questioning whether people should seek “political correctness”
or “truthfulness” in education.
After the 2013 NCEE ended, former spokesman of
China’s Ministry of Education, Wang Xuming,
immediately attacked the essay prompts on the Internet.
He said that, firstly, the themes deviate too much from reality;
second, the topics are too restrictive;
third, the implied messages are too shallow in ideology;
and fourth, the overall test is a suppression of
imagination and displays of versatile abilities
in Chinese writing.
Wang’s opinion has been echoed by
many education experts.
Ye Kuangzheng, Chinese cultural critic: “I feel that
if the topics that deviate from real life become dominant,
then our students’ free thinking will be further discouraged.
Currently, a major problem of the essay topics
is that they are too hollow.
Most of them have little to do with the students’
mental world or any real social issues.”
An article titled “Did you write the exam essay
with your heart?” says that
China’s current education system is too rigid, and
tends to suppress independent thought and personality.
The essay writing for the exam also becomes
“standardized” process to some extent.
Following the requirement of “standardized” writing,
the children pay more attention to the “political correctness”
of the essay, rather than expressing their true thoughts.
Mr. Zhang, research fellow at a private school in Beijing:
”The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) education system
is always like this.
[The mindset of the students is that] if a teacher tells you
something, it must be right and can’t be challenged.
In the end, the children dare not express their real thoughts.
Even if they do, the feedback will mostly be very negative.
This definitely blocks the creativity of our children.
If educated like this for a long time, they can hardly
become developed human beings.”
Ye Kuangzheng: ”Through the essay topics,
we can learn what kind of world view or methodology
the educators attempt to teach the students.
If the topics are too hollow or mediocre, it’s hard to imagine
that the students will be able to express in writing how they
really feel in a short amount of time.”
As a modern poet and cultural critic, Ye Kuangzheng believes
that essay writing is not only a measurement of
literary ability, but also displays a person’s mental realm.
The writing style recommended by educators can influence
students’ personality and their understanding of life.
Therefore, a good essay topic should focus more on
people’s mental realm and be closer to real life and society.
Ye Kuangzheng: “I think a good title should both relate to
some current issues and require understanding of universal knowledge.
Therefore I think we had better have more essay topics
about social topics.
This helps students improve their social responsibility
and being active in solving social issues.
The topics should also serve to establish a healthy
structure of our society.
For example, the process of encouraging young
people’s rational thinking and critical consciousness can start from school essay writing.”
Although some educators attribute the defects of
the NCEE essay test to China’s education system,
Ye Kuangzheng says that the problem’s rooted
is indeed the CCP’s social framework.
Ye Kuangzheng: “The rigid essay topics should be closely
related to the lack of openness in our education system.
For an open society, it would expect more wisdom
But in a dictatorship regime or a closed society,
the rulers usually want the people to be more stupid.
I feel that the current trend in assigning essay topics will
only lead to hollow and mediocre writings by our young people.
It may also make them lose longings and imaginations
toward the future, as well as their responsibility to society.”
Mr. Zhang, researcher at a private school in Beijing,
says that essay writing will become meaningless if
students choose “political correctness” over better grades
instead of expressing their true thoughts;
this is because, an essay itself is supposed to
speak a person’s true thoughts.