Two generations of China’s “gaokao”





Wen Dongsheng





BEIJING  |   2017-06-06 09:30:19


Two generations 

of China’s “gaokao”


By Qiang Lijing and Ren Qinqin



Wen Dongsheng (文东升) returned to China seven months ago having lived in the United Kingdom for 17 years, and has just about adapted to his new life as the head of a leading college.

Leaving his post as a full professor at the University of Leeds and his stable life in the U.K., Wen, 42, is now dean of the college of aeronautic and engineering at Beihang University in Beijing (北京航空航天大学航空科学与工程学院).





Wen returned as part of China’s influential Thousand Talents program which, from December 2008 has set out to attract highly skilled people from overseas.

Despite his almost perfect resume and life overseas, Wen, a thermal physicist, is happiest when he talks about his formative years striving for a great ambition.

Born in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Wen spent his childhood in a village and helped his parents on the farm after school.

Wen said,”I was not the top student, but my grades were good, usually among the top ten percent.”

Wen attributes his success to the English word “grit.”

“When I set myself a goal, I always try my best to reach it,” he said.

His first vital goal was the gaokao, China’a annual college entrance exam, in 1993.

“I passed the exam with high grades and was admitted to Beihang University, which made me famous in my county overnight,” he recalled.

In the 1990s, gaokao was seen as the only way for poverty-stricken students to change their fate. From a backward county to a renowned university in the capital, Wen set his next goal.

As a young boy he was addicted to planes, so he chose aircraft design as his major, even though he did not know what he would learn nor what kind of work he would find after graduation.

After gaokao, Wen and most of his classmates were shocked to discover how backward China’s aerospace industry was at that time. After graduation, many students were assigned to work in factories in less-developed provinces such as northwest China’s Shaanxi.

In view of a not-so-promising future, Wen decided to sit the entrance exams of the postgraduate school of Tsinghua University, which of course he passed, and he studied thermal engineering for three years.

His research attracted the attention of a lecturer at Oxford University and he was invited to read for a DPhil with a full scholarship. He completed his work in less than three years.

In 2006, Wen became a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London and was promoted to reader at the university in 2009, when only 34 years old. In the U.K., the average age of being appointed to a readership is 45. He took up the chair professorship at the University of Leeds four years later.

Wen sees the gaokao as having provided him with the chance to leave his rural backwater and go global.





Wen was profoundly influenced by his father Wen Qingcheng, now in his 70s.

In 1977, Wen Qingcheng (文庆城), a village teacher at that time, took the college entrance exam, the first after the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

“He did very well in the exam but he chose the nearest junior college to our hometown, for he had three children to raise at that time,” his son said.

After graduation, Wen Qingcheng worked at a high school in Guanyang County in Guangxi and became head of the school. But his hunger for higher education was far from satisfied, and at 40, the father sat another gaokao in 1987, ten years after his first.

He was admitted by Guangxi Normal University with excellent grades. Eight years later, he took up a teaching post at the university.

From village teacher to a university lecturer, Wen Qingcheng was a legend to many locals, but he was still not satisfied.

In 1997, ten years after his second gaokao, Wen Qingcheng, then 50 years old, took a postgraduate course at Guangxi Normal University. It is never too late to learn. Wen also started learning English the same year. He was then appointed professor in the university.

Wen Qingcheng said gaokao is a fair opportunity offered by the country to allow everyone to change their fate.

“In the old days, Dad may never have had a chance to study in a top university,” Wen Dongsheng said.

So Wen inherited both his father’s love of knowledge and his persistence.





Wen Dongsheng believes the gaokao is no longer the only chance for Chinese students, but it is after gaokao, helping students fulfil their potential during their college years, that concerns Wen most since his return.

On May 23, the school of general engineering was established at Beihang University, driven forward by Wen Jr., now dean of the school.

“I want to build a school with an international environment to teach to international standards. In this school, students do not need to choose a specific major, which will encourage creativity and original thinking. They will learn from excellent lectures from around the world,” Wen said.

After this year’s gaokao, 60 high school graduates from across the nation will be admitted to Wen’s school of general engineering.

Wen expects those ambitious Chinese students to build a better future for the world.










新华社北京6月6日电  |  17-06-06 19:59:41




作者:任沁沁  强力静



























































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TAIYUAN  |  2017-06-02 20:03:55


 Separate exam sites

for HIV students spark controversy


By Li Laifang, Wang Xuetao, Huo Yao an Chen Xi


A special school for HIV students has caused controversy by arranging for 16 of its students to take the gaokao exam in separate classrooms from non-HIV students.

The 16 students — 11 boys and five girls — will sit the gaokao, China’s college entrance exam, on June 6-7 in two classroom-turned exam rooms at Linfen Red Ribbon School in northern China’s Shanxi Province, the country’s only school for HIV children.

The students, aged 17 to 21, are the first group of high middle school graduates from the school, previously called “A Tiny Classroom of Love,” opened by Linfen Third People’s Hospital for medical staff to teach four HIV children. The school was officially founded in 2011, offering both primary and middle school education.

The gaokao is of vital importance to Chinese students, with millions of candidates participating every year.

“We just made the place where they study and live as the exam site,” said Guo Xiaoping, principal of the school and former president of Linfen Third People’s Hospital.

He said the decision to set separate exam rooms was out of care for the children, who were infected with HIV from mother-to-child transmission.

“The school is a half-hour ride from the general exam site. It is not convenient to take them to go to another place for the exam,” Guo said. “If the children take the exams with other candidates, I fear they may feel nervous and others will protest.”

However, after many years working against AIDS discrimination, the school underestimated growing acceptance of people with HIV.

“Separate exam rooms objectively create a discriminatory atmosphere,” Wang Linghang, a doctor with Beijing Ditan Hospital, told Beijing News. “Obviously, there is no transmission risk when HIV students take the exams together with other candidates.”

“The personal privacy of HIV people should be protected. If these children do not take the exams in separate rooms, who will know they are HIV carriers?” said Bai Hua, leader of a Beijing-based AIDS organization. “The exam rooms are distributed randomly to candidates. Other students will not know they are HIV carriers.”

However, some supported the school’s decision.

“Separate sites can remove the worry of others and provide free space for people with HIV infection. This is not discrimination,” said a user of Weibo, a Twitter-like service. “The social reality is that many people are afraid of contacting AIDS and that cannot be changed currently.”

“It is not a matter of discrimination, but the kids’ safety. We could not rule out any possibility of infection, such as the virus passing through blood in wounds,” said another internet user.

Xiong Bingqi, of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the separate exam rooms were meant to provide a good environment, and it was important that the students were given equal education rights.

“There is still a long way to go to completely eradicate discrimination against people living with AIDS/HIV,” he said.

In China, about 654,000 people live with HIV/AIDS.








BEIJING  |  2017-06-02 23:57:24

China stresses security, fairness

ahead of college entrance exam


By Guo Likun


The Chinese government has called for strict regulations to ensure the fairness of the national college entrance exams, known as Gaokao, due to take place early June.

The Ministry of Education Friday demanded tight security for the printing, transportation, storage, handing out and grading of exam papers to guard against leaks.

Detection and inspection methods should be adopted to prevent multiple forms of cheating, including the use of high-tech tools and substitute examinees.

In addition, the ministry has set up nationwide information lines for the public to report malpractice, vowing prompt handling of reports.

Gaokao is considered a relatively fair way to screen and select higher-education candidates, but the reputation of the test has taken a battering in recent years over allegations of cheating.








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