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China Youth & Education

Chinese Arts Students into Panic Mode after Failing to Register for Exams Amid Announced Reforms

“The collapse of one app is affecting our entire future.”

Boyu Xiao

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Thousands of Chinese arts students have been unable to register for their upcoming exams this week, leading to great anger on social media. Now that China’s examination system is undergoing changes that will affect students majoring in arts, many fear that this was their last chance of ensuring a place at the higher education system they were aiming for.

This week, thousands of Chinese art undergraduates have gone into full panic mode for not being able to register for their upcoming exams.

The college enrollment procedures for students planning to major in ‘arts’ (covering fields of music, painting, dancing, design, film & TV, etc.) is different from students within other fields; those majoring in arts have to complete a college-level exam along with a provincial-level exam before taking the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), commonly known as Gaokao.

On January 6th, allegedly around 700,000 students who tried to register for their college-level exam through the Yishisheng (艺术升) registration app found the system unresponsive, making the issue a trending topic on Chinese social media.

The hashtag “700,000 Arts Exam Candidates Lose Registration Qualification” (#70万艺考生丧失报名资格#) received more than 150 million views on Weibo at time of writing, with many students being angered and stressed, saying that “the collapse of one app is affecting our entire future.” At time of writing, it is not sure how the reports have come up with the 700,000 number, although it is probable that this is based on numbers of previous years, or based on the number of people taking the provincial-level exams (this link for reference).

 

What’s the Deal with Chinese Art Students?

 

The Gaokao (高考) or China’s National Higher Education Entrance Examination is well-known for being notoriously tough and super competitive. Every summer, millions of Chinese undergraduates take the exams for two days in a row or longer, depending on the major they are applying for and the provinces they are registered in. The result of this annual exam is set as the common entry criterion reference for university admission.

For students specializing in arts, their journey to the Gaokao examinations already starts earlier in the year. Arts students take the college-level supplementary exam (known as xiaokao 校考 or jiashi 加试), for which they have to register separately. All art students are also required to participate in the provincial exams (liankao 联考 or tongkao 统考), where their understanding of basic art knowledge and relevant art skills will be tested.

Only students who have passed these provincial exams will receive the certification that is needed in order to take the exams in June.

Image via http://news.southcn.com.

The extra challenge also provides extra opportunities for art students. Different from other students, art students’ final score is based on multiple grades, namely that of the aforementioned (1) supplementary university exam (校考), (2) the combined arts exam (联考), and (3) the gaokao (高考). Every art student is required to pass the combined arts exam, but have the benefit that most universities set relatively lower requirements for their gaokao scores once they have passed.

Once these art students are admitted to universities, their department choices, however, are not limited to arts per se. Arts students are thus sometimes labeled as being ‘opportunists,’ who allegedly take an ‘easy route’ to enter top-level universities.

The “Art exam” is not the “Easy Exam” (imagevia Sohu.com)

But the idea that the arts route is the easy route is often debunked in Chinese media and on social media, where it is argued that arts students have to work harder to invest in their field of specialty, and therefore are doing anything but taking the ‘easier’ road into their higher education career.

 

Announced Reforms in the Exam System

 

The controversial ‘shortcut,’ however, may disappear in the nearby future. On December 29, 2018, the Ministry of Education issued an article on art exams, suggesting that the general knowledge gaokao score will become more important and decisive in the future.

After the proposed reform, there will allegedly be a limit on the supplementary arts exams at educational institutions, meaning that art students with a lower gaokao score will no longer be admitted.

On the discussion boards of Chinese Q&A site Zhihu, various pages are discussing the upcoming reforms. Some commenters wrote that they support changes to the system, believing it will filter out ‘the opportunists’ from art education and keep the ‘real art lovers’ in.

Others voice different opinions, arguing that the reform is unfair to talented arts students and that it will lead to art schools being dominated by ‘bookworms.’ One current arts student (named @乔贰乔) questions the importance for art students to have a high general knowledge course score, and quotes a Chinese proverb, saying: “People master different fields” (术业有专攻).

If the reform is implemented, 2019 will be the last year for arts students to enjoy the lower gaokao score advantage. Previously, undergraduates who were not satisfied with their gaokao scores could go back to high school and try again the next year. The reform, however, would ban comprehensive universities from holding individual arts exams after 2019, making this year’s exams a pivotal one for many arts undergraduates who hope to get into their dream university.

 

Registration Chaos at ‘Yishusheng’ App

 

Besides the extra stress caused by the reform, this year’s arts students find themselves facing an unexpected difficulty: not being able to register for their college-level exams (xiaokao 校考).

The exam registration app Yishusheng (艺术升), the only authorized arts exam registration system for the top arts educational institutions, was not capable of handling the large data flow this week and broke down shortly after opening the registration.

The app is also being accused of promoting its 598 yuan (90 USD) VIP membership, with which the registration process would allegedly be accelerated.

By now, thousands of art students have shared their disappointment and anger over not being able to register at such a crucial moment. Some netizens commented that they have tried to register for the Art Academy of Xi’an’s entrance exam for over three hours, but never succeeded. Others say they have been up all night together with their parents, desperately trying to get a spot for their examinations.

The failing app.

Sina News also reported that some students succeeded in registering in Jiangsu province, but then later discovered their examination would allegedly take place in Lanzhou, Gansu province, according to the app.

On January 7, Beijing News reported that, according to the Yishusheng app, part of the problem is that there is a decrease in art institutions across the nation and that examination sites have been reduced, suggesting that simply “too many people” were registering for the exams.

On its official Weibo account, the Yishusheng app briefly apologized for the recent crisis, and thoroughly explained the efforts the app has put into making their system better. They also state that the system is “back to normal,” while in the various comments sections, people still complain that they cannot enter the registration page.

For now, it does not seem that the storm has blown over yet, especially because Weibo netizens are also angered about the fact that this topic, although receiving so many views, did not appear in the ‘hot search’ or ‘top trending’ lists, with many people suspecting the issue is purposely being kept under the radar.

“I am just so disappointed, so incredibly disappointed,” one disgruntled commenter writes.

By Boyu Xiao, with contributions by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Boyu Xiao is an MPhil graduate in Asian Studies (Leiden University/Peking University) focused on modern China. She has a strong interest in feminist issues and specializes in the construction of memory in contemporary China.

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China Local News

Children of Hubei Medical Workers to Receive 10 Extra Points on High School Enrolment Examination

Hubei officials announced a controversial measure to reward frontline medical workers.

Manya Koetse

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Image via xjdkctz.com.

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Hubei authorities announced new measures on Tuesday to encourage and support the work of Hubei’s front-line medical workers during the coronavirus crisis.

One of these measures, rewarding the children of medical staff an extra ten points in their zhongkao examination, became a somewhat controversial top trending topic on Chinese social media today.

The zhongkao is an important academic examination in China taken during the last year of junior high school, right before entering education institutions at the senior high school level. These enrollment examinations are held annually in June or July, depending on the region.

A good mark on the exam is of crucial importance for many students, as it will give them admission to their preferred senior high school, which then could have more profound effects on their education after high school and their further career.

According to the new policy, children of Hubei’s medical workers would be rewarded with ten extra points on top of their overall score for the exams if they take it. Since the exams are highly competitive, every extra point could mean a world of difference since it will mean leaving hundreds of other students behind you.

On Weibo, one announcement of the new measure published by Chinese news source The Paper received over 938.000 likes and more than 11.000 comments. Many Weibo users do not agree with the policy.

“It should be the medical workers themselves who are rewarded through promotion or a salary increase,” a top comment says: “It shouldn’t be their children who are rewarded.”

Although a majority of commenters say that medical workers should be given special rewards in these times of hardships, most also agree that rewarding their children in their exam results is not the way to go. “This only makes the exam system more unfair,” a recurring comment says.

With 610 million views at the time of writing, the hashtag “The kids of Hubei frontline medical staff will get extra 10 points on zhongkao score” (#湖北一线医务人员子女中考加10分#) is one of the most-dicussed topics on Weibo of the day.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Sex & Gender

Girls’ Charity Project Funds Boys Instead: Online Anger over ‘Spring Buds Program’

The ‘Spring Buds’ charity supposedly only focused on helping girls, but it turns out this is not the case.

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A charity fund that was supposedly dedicated to girls’ education in rural China has been found to fund the education of boys, triggering anger online.

The Chinese charity “Spring Buds Program” (春蕾计划), a project meant to advance girls’ education launched by the CCTF (China Children and Teenagers’ Fund 中国儿童少年基金) has come under fire for providing financial aid to schoolboys in China.

The “Spring Buds” project, which falls under the All-China Women’s Federation, has received the China Charity Award in the past for its efforts to promote girls’ education. The program was launched in 1989 to help girls in China’s impoverished rural areas to go to school, improve literacy rates among China’s young girls and women, and empower girls to strengthen their influence in their local communities.

This week, the charity’s focus has come under scrutiny after it became known that of the 1267 students receiving financial aid as part of one of ‘Spring Buds’ scholarship programs, there were 453 male students.

The topic triggered wider online discussions on Chinese social media on gender inequality in China.

Some commenters argued that boys, even in impoverished areas, are generally still better off than girls due to a persisting gender preference for boy children.

Weibo users also pointed out how there are multiple non-gender specific charity programs in China, and that ‘Spring Buds’ is one of the few focused on girls only – arguing that it should thus also really be assisting solely girls.

As the news about ‘Spring Buds’ coincided with this week’s launch of the Global Gender Gap Index report, some Weibo users also wondered why Chinese official media would quote this report and mention Japan’s worsening gender equality, while not mentioning anything about the status quo of gender equality in China.

The CCTF responded to the controversy via their official Weibo account on December 17th, stating that although its program was initially focused solely on girls, this year’s project funding was also allocated to impoverished male students who needed “urgent help.”

The organization further noted that they will be more transparent to charity donors in the future about how their funds are allocated.

Although the hashtag “Anger over Spring Bud Project Subsidizing School Boys” (#春蕾计划资助男生引质疑#) was used on social media by several Chinese media outlets to report the issue, the hashtag page is no longer accessible on Weibo at time of writing.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes
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Featured image photo by Ray Chan.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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