Gaokao Reform Faces Further Challenges

China’s Gaokao pilot reform is facing widespread criticism and further challenges. Despite the fact that the reform will provide broader choices for students by removing the division between the Science and Arts streams, the university admission system has failed to provide a clear connection to this change. Furthermore, given that admissions are based on the total score, students, families and teachers still tend to choose subjects which are likely to achieve a higher score. As a result, Geography (likely to obtain a higher score) has become a hugely popular choice, while Physics (likely to receive a lower score) is an unpopular choice, even for many STEM students. The pilot reform project was initially conducted in Shanghai and Zhejiang province, and consequently universities have seen a much higher failure rate among STEM students from this region at the end of semester one testing.  In 2018, the 2nd regional cluster of Gaokao reforms (in Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong and Hainan) will be conducted under the same principles.


One positive outcome is that an increasing number of universities are willing to let students select disciplines after 1-2 years of their undergraduate study, making it easier for students to change disciplines and transfer between faculties. Wuhan University, Tianjin University and University of Science & Technology Beijing are using the slogan of “No barrier to change” to attract students.

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