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

From primary school on, students spend a lot of time studying mathematics, and Chinese students are famous for their achievements in all kinds of international contests. But only a few really excellent mathematicians have emerged in China. In terms of English, according to surveys, Chinese college students capable of fluent communication in English number less than 10 percent. So China's education in English is not all that successful. Chinese teachers are used to the cramming method of teaching, giving standard answers in tests and examinations, because this brings instant results.

Calls for education reform have grown in recent years, but there has been little progress. Why? It is partly because the curriculums in primary and middle schools are based on the final college entrance examination. When independent admission tests begin to exclude Chinese, it further encourages the current negligence of arts disciplines. It's really worrying to see universities act so arbitrarily in arranging tests.

Bin Bing (Workers' Daily): Now, much of the world's top scientific technology is still in the grasp of other countries. So if students want to know more about that, they need the ability to read foreign academic materials. English is undoubtedly important, but no matter how important it is, it's no excuse to ignore the discipline of learning Chinese.

Universities need to rear high-level science talent, but first of all, they must be qualified persons, and any qualified person must have a basic understanding of their native culture and a basic respect for their native language.

Therefore, a country's universities are unwise to neglect students' ability in the mother tongue in order to achieve so-called scientific development.

Wang Zhishun (www.21cn.com): In 2000, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated February 21 as International Mother Language Day. This indicates language is the most effective tool to preserve and develop human being's tangible and intangible heritages. If characters gradually disappear and language begins to die, the culture expressed in the language will also disappear. A mother tongue is the living embodiment of a nation's culture. People need to use it to express feelings and ideas.

To preserve the Chinese language's vitality and to safeguard its holiness are necessary for China to develop its culture—and it is also every citizen's basic right and obligation.

Reasonable choice

Wang Shichuan (Zhujiang Evening News): After the news of some Shanghai universities excluding Chinese in their admission tests was released, all kinds of criticism arose, such as "it represents discrimination against the discipline of Chinese" or "it is a betrayal of ancestors and the motherland." Here, we need to make it clear if the universities does not have the right to decide test subjects, it's no longer independent admission.

If the right to recruit is solely at the hands of the central education authority, education reform will never succeed and we'll never see the rearing of creative talents. Only when universities are given the right of independent decision-making, will better talent be produced. Independent admission has now arrived, but it is submerged in all kinds of doubt. It's really sad that some people even want to deny independent admission. Only when the right of independent decision-making is fully respected will admission proceed well.

Independent admission targets students who excel in certain areas. Chinese is just a general discipline that is not difficult for most people, so it is also understandable it is not used in the tests.

Liang Jiangtao (www.xinhuanet.com): To my knowledge, the exclusion of Chinese from universities' independent admission tests does relieve students of burdens. In tests conducted by Tsinghua University and Shanghai Jiaotong University in January, for example, students had to sit through mathematics, Chinese and English exams all in one day. The exams lasted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and many students were almost exhausted afterward.

All people support reducing students' loads, but whenever it is said Chinese is to be excluded from the exam for this purpose, some get furious. Is it because Chinese is our mother tongue? But who has ever seen a university that does not demand tests in Chinese finally abandon the mother tongue?

To omit tests in Chinese is acceptable. Now, it is only a few prestigious universities that practice the independent admission policy. Those who accord with the application conditions are always the top students in high schools. They do very well in Chinese, mathematics and English, or they would not dare to apply. What they have learned about Chinese is enough for their college education.

If Chinese must be covered in the admission tests, what needs to be done is to make the questions more difficult and complex, or the tests would be useless.

It must be admitted, in reality, some college students are bad at Chinese and its application. The root of the problem is negligence of education in Chinese at primary and middle schools. If universities use students' performance in Chinese in middle schools as a measure of their academic achievements, the subject would be emphasized. If so, independent admission does not need tests in Chinese.

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