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Higher Learning Dilemma> Archive
UPDATED: March 14, 2010 NO. 11 MARCH 18, 2010
Is Chinese as a Subject Important?


In January, six universities in Shanghai held independent admission tests to select students from more than 10,000 applicants. At four of the universities, Chinese was not a test subject or science students were exempted from being tested in Chinese.

The practice of independent admission focuses more on special abilities in certain areas, so Chinese as a general subject was omitted, a teacher at one of the four universities said under the condition of anonymity. "To consult foreign academic materials, students must use English. It's not that Chinese is not important, but (exams in) too many subjects stresses the students," he said.

Meanwhile, 31 members of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference jointly submitted a proposal, arguing the exclusion of Chinese from universities' independent admission tests violated state education policies and was also an uncalled-for practice.

Many people accuse the universities of overly stressing immediate interest to exclude Chinese in independent admission tests. To demand tests in Chinese, they say, is not based on a narrow sense of nationalism, but the reason that the mother tongue always comes first in daily communication. Learning Chinese is also necessary to inherit national tradition and culture. It is no secret that primary and middle school teachers and students always attach more importance to subjects in college entrance tests. So even the exclusion of Chinese from independent admission tests will reduce its status as a major subject in primary and middle schools.

Those who support the exclusion believe, since it is independent admission, the public should respect the universities' right of self-determination. If the universities say English is more important or they don't want to give Chinese tests, it's their decision. Universities want to find out students' capability in science subjects within a limited time, so it's understandable for them to exclude tests in Chinese in this instance.

Shortsighted decision

Deng Wei (Shangqiu Daily): The language of a country is responsible for carrying on its culture. In any country, the mother tongue always comes before foreign languages. If all high-caliber professionals brought up in China are good at English but poor at Chinese, the results will be, obviously, terrible.

Independent admission undoubtedly endows universities with the right to choose suitable students in line with their distinctive criteria.

When greater numbers of students choose to take universities' independent admission tests, these tests will gradually become another guide for primary and middle schools' discipline arrangements. When this kind of independent admission model begins to prevail, more middle schools and even primary schools will follow suit.

He Yong (www.people.com.cn): Whatever discipline it is, students will feel stressed if they have to take too many exams. Chinese and English are both language disciplines. If the reduction of test subjects is for the purpose of relieving students of their burdens, then English should also be omitted.

In China, Chinese is more widely and frequently used in daily teaching than English is. Chinese is even more frequently used when students search for academic materials. Even if students need to consult foreign materials, not all of them are in English.

We hardly know how the conclusion is arrived at that, if one is not good at English, his or her future is doomed. Many of China's outstanding scientists are not good at English, and also some successful entrepreneurs cannot open their mouths when it comes to English.

No matter which disciplines students take, most of them have to write most of their reports and papers in Chinese, not English. If one is not good at Chinese, he or she will be unable to understand books and unable to write papers well. This happens a lot. Most of the college students who have passed the highest-level test for English proficiency cannot write their graduation paper in English and their papers in Chinese are also poor in grammar.

If the universities are unable to offer a purely English teaching environment, to exclude Chinese while including English in independent admission tests is nothing but showing off.

Bai Ling (www.xinhuanet.com): The mother tongue is the basic language of a nation for thinking and talking. Foreign languages are used as tools. As Chinese, to make use of the Chinese language is a basic capability. No matter if one is an arts or science student, he or she has to learn and use Chinese.

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