A: Standardized testing
China and its love affair with standardized testing, part I
During the summer of last year, I was waiting on the side of the highway with a man who had sold me a bus ticket from the ancient city of Dali to the ancient city of Lijiang.
As we waited on the highway for the bus to pick me up, I noticed that just down the road all of the cars from my side of the divided highway were being forced to cross over so both directions were traveling on a single side.
I looked as far as I could down the highway and, seeing no accidents nor construction, asked the man waiting with me, “Why’s the road closed?”
“The Gaokao,” he replied, referring to the this-determines-your-entire-lot-in-life college entrance exam taken across the country. The testing center was near the highway, so highspeed traffic was being diverted, risking countless lives, in order to make the testing center quieter.
That was when I realized just how important standardized testing is in a country with a full-blown case of credentialism.
Testing is so important that it’s literally a life-or-death situation for some.
Just after my semester ended and I left Guangzhou, I received a text message from my Chinese friend Confucius, still in Guangzhou.
The evening before, Confucius had been studying in the library at the university next to my high school when heard what he described as a bomb explode outside the library stacks.
Confucius continued studying for another minute until a frightened student came in and announced what had happened: a student had just jumped to her death from the library stacks.
According to Confucius, the student had just done poorly on a graduate student entrance exam.
“I’ve got a fear of blood,” Confucius explained to me. So he shut his eyes as he exited the library and cut through the crowd of onlookers.
He dared not look at the gruesome byproduct of life-or-death standardized testing left on the pavement.