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Ministry of Education Bans the Idolization of China’s Top Gaokao Scorers

Stories of the top achievers of China’s national exams can no longer be propagated by state media; the emphasis should shift to the average, harmonious student.

Chauncey Jung

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The countdown has started for China’s national exams, the gaokao. Although the top scorers of these decisive exams are usually praised as champions, the Ministry of Education now warns against their idolization and orders schools and media to use ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ as their guide.

China’s Ministry of Education has issued an official announcement this week that it is no longer allowed to idolize the top scorers of China’s upcoming National Higher Education Entrance Examinations, usually abbreviated to gaokao (高考, ‘high exams’).

The notice was issued after a top-level conference on May 8, which focused on the enrollment process for China’s national graduation exams.

The gaokao will take place in June and always attract nationwide attention – both offline and online – in the weeks before they start. The exams are the most important moment of the year for those taking part; they are a prerequisite for entering China’s higher education institutions and are usually taken by students in their last year of senior high school.

 

“It is strictly prohibited to give publicity to gaokao top scorers.”

 

“It is strictly prohibited to give publicity to gaokao top scorers,” the head of the Ministry of Education, Chen Baosheng (陈宝生), was quoted saying by various state media outlets on Weibo, adding that “those who do so anyway will be dealt with accordingly.”

In the Ministry of Education’s announcement, it further said that education departments all over China should use Xi Jinping’s socialist ideology with Chinese characteristics as a guide to their work relating to the college national entrance exams this year.

The exams, that take place during a period of 2 days, are so important because scoring high grades for this exam can give high school students access to a better college, which enlarges their chances of obtaining a good job after graduation. Because the exam results are potentially life-changing, the gaokao period is generally a highly stressful time for students and their parents.

Those who succeed in becoming the number one scorers in their field and area, also known as the gāokǎo zhuàngyuán (高考状元, ‘gaokao champions’), are usually widely praised by Chinese media and educational institutions.

Names and photos of top scorers published in 2009.

Year on year, the scores, names, photos, and stories of those students excelling in the humanities (文理状元) and science (理科状元) are publicized by national, provincial, and local newspapers.

Changing Propaganda: From Top Achievers to Harmonious Students

The announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Education to ban the promotion of the top scorers in the university entrance exams became a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media today.

In their report of the ban, Party newspaper People’s Daily published pictures showing how students and schools are preparing for the upcoming exams.

The photos are full of socialist-style propaganda-like slogans (e.g. “trials and hardships strengthen determination”), encouraging students to work and study hard and to repay their parents for the efforts they put into them.

Various pictures show how, to prepare for the decisive exams next month, students in Hengshui, Hebei, bring in meals for the class and then eat together from the same bowl in order to not waste valuable study time.

Instead of promoting and propagating the stories of China’s top scorers, Chinese state media now seem to shift their focus to students’ hard work and collaborate efforts to prepare for the exam.

In line with Xi Jinping’s socialist thought, which also promotes equality in education and the nurturing of “a new generation of capable young people who (..) are well-prepared to join the socialist cause”, the official focus has now apparently changed from top achievers to the average, harmonious and social student.

China’s higher education is extremely competitive, and so is the battle for the high gaokao scores; although as much as 9.75 million senior high school students are going to take part in the 2018 University Entrance Exams, only less than 100 of them will have the opportunity to become an actual gāokǎo zhuàngyuán or ‘top-score champion.’

Inequality behind the ‘zhuàngyuán’?

The gaokao top-score achievers are not just the minority when it comes to statistics, they are also the ‘elites’ of the supposed socialist society.

After claiming the title of 2017 Beijing University Entrance Exam top scorer, the 2017 zhuàngyuán Xiong Xuan’an was interviewed by Chinese media outlet The Paper and addressed some controversial issues on becoming one of the top scorers.

Xiong, during the interview, said that for students coming from rural areas, it is much harder to get into good universities, saying: “People like me are from middle-class families. We do not have to worry about food or clothes. Our parents are educated.”

He added: “We were born in large cities like Beijing. We simply got better education resources than the rest. Students from other places and rural areas are not able to get these benefits.”

 

“The top scorers nowadays are, generally speaking, coming from prestigious families.”

 

Over the past years, Chinese parents are increasingly spending huge amounts of money towards their children’s education, varying from extravagant summer programs to hiring ‘gaokao nannies‘ to support children taking the exams. Spending money on high-quality private schools and tutoring starts as early as kindergarten.

But not all families can afford top-notch schools for their children. Official statistics show that in 2017, dispensable income per capita in China is approximately 25,974 yuan (±US$4072).

Xiong told reporters that his parents are diplomats, saying: “It made my learning path easier. And the top scorers nowadays are, generally speaking, coming from prestigious families and are good at studying.”

Perhaps the general promotion of top-score achievers used to be an efficient way for state media to promote hard-working attitudes and the ‘Chinese dream‘, but the emergence of the more elite zhuàngyuán now has come to show how differences in educational resources have created inequality in educational opportunities.

Weibo Discussions

The recent ban on stories about the 2018 gaokao top scorers is an indication that the Chinese Ministry of Education now wants to de-emphasize worsening disparities within society, but not all commenters on Weibo agree with this shift.

“Why can’t we give publicity to the top scorers?”, author Tan Yantong (@谭延桐) asks on Weibo: “There is so much rotten entertainment news (..) and bullsh*t news, unbearable news, ruining our value system – why don’t you ban that sort of news?”

 

“What’s the use for me to become a number one scorer now?”

 

“Then you might as well ban the top scorers in sports,” others say: “That’s also highly competitive.”

“Now what’s the use for me to become a number one scorer anyway?” another commenter jokingly says.

But there are also supporters of the new guideline. “This is a good start,” one other Weibo user writes: “Elementary education is general education – not elite education. How to provide efficient and equal education is something the Ministry of Education needs to figure out through new strategies.”

By Chauncey Jung and 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.

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Chauncey Jung is a China internet specialist who currently works for an Internet company based out of Beijing. Jung completed his BA and MA education in Canada (Univ. of Toronto & Queen's), and has a strong interest in Chinese trends, technology, economic developments and social issues.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. winona

    May 13, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    honestly, i like this. there’s so much pressure in chinese culture to exceed in studies (resulting in depression, anxiety and even suicide). academia isn’t for everyone. this is de-stigmatising average test scores and opens up the conversation for different careers. im very surprised and quite proud of china’s education department for promoting this campaign. i wish for china to keep moving towards progressive and open minded societal attitudes.

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China Media

“Tyrant Train Woman” Goes Trending on Weibo and Unleashes Flood of New Memes

The hashtag “High-Speed Tyrant Woman” (#高铁霸座女#) already received a staggering 450 million views on Weibo today.

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While the bizarre behavior of a male passenger went viral in late August, this time, it is a female passenger’s rude behavior that’s become trending on Chinese social media. Some netizens think the two ‘high-speed train tyrants’ (高铁霸座) deserve each other, creating memes putting them together.

In late August of this year, one rude man from Shandong who refused to give up the seat he took from another passenger became known as the “High-Speed Train Tyrant” (高铁霸座男 gāotiě bà zuò nán) on Chinese social media.

A video showing the man’s bizarre behavior went viral, and netizens were especially angry because the man pretended he could not get up from the stolen seat and needed a wheelchair – although he did not need one when boarding the train.

The man pretended he needed a wheelchair, but actually did not want to give up the window seat.

The man was later temporarily blacklisted for his actions. Although he apologized in a public video, a newer video (Youtube link) made clear the man was everything but remorseful, as it showed him laughing, using an office chair as a ‘wheelchair,’ and joking around about his own behavior.

The “train tyrant” from Shandong.

The train bully that is now going viral, is a woman from Hunan who has been dubbed ‘High-Speed Train Tyrant Woman’ (高铁霸座女 gāotiě bà zuò nǚ”) by Weibo netizens. She had taken a seat assigned to another passenger while riding the train from Yongzhou to Shenzhen.

A video (YouTube link here) – that has become one of the most-discussed topics on Weibo today – shows how a woman on a high-speed train makes a scene when the train conductor tells her she is in the wrong seat. She refuses to get up from her window seat to return to her own seat.

Instead, she raises her voice, talks rudely to the conductor, and simply claims she has bought a ticket and will not change to another seat until she has reached her final destination.

The hashtag “High-Speed Tyrant Woman” (#高铁霸座女#) already saw a staggering 450 million views at time of writing.

According to a Weibo statement that has been issued by Hengyang Railway Security (@衡阳铁路公安处) since the topic has become trending, the incident occurred on Wednesday, September 19, on a G6078 train. The stubborn passenger is the 32-year-old Ms. Zhou. She has now been fined 200 RMB (±$30) for “disturbing the order.”

Weibo statement.

“Couldn’t you fine these passengers a bit more?”, some netizens wonder: “If the fine were higher, it might not happen that often anymore.”

Many netizens are simply outraged: “Isn’t this a society that is ruled by law? What do we do with these people?”

“How can people be so shameless?”, a typical comment says.

While the incident is a source of anger for many, it is a source of banter for some; the incident has triggered a wave of new memes today that put the Shandong train tyrant and the woman together.

Some examples here:

Here:

…here:

Or here:

Meanwhile, Guangzhou Railways (@广州铁路) has also responded to the issue on Weibo, stating that in cases such as these (when passengers are fined for their behavior), passengers can expect a 180-day ban from purchasing train tickets.

Just as in the case with the male ‘train tyrant,’ this time as well, the so-called human flesh search engine has come into action once the video went viral, meaning many netizens went digging to reveal the woman’s identity. Her personal details have since been exposed on social media – a burden that will probably weigh much heavier on her than a temporary train ban or a 200 RMB fine.

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.

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China Health

Chinese ‘Scientific’ Study Claims Acupuncture Performed on Parents Can Cure Their Children

“How could such a study be published in a renowned scientific publication?,” some wonder.

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Cartoon published by Beijing News in response to the study, by illustrator Liu Jun 刘俊.

A Chinese study published in a renowned academic periodical has received much online attention this week. The research, that suggests sick children could be cured by performing acupuncture on their parents, has generated waves of criticism – many of those commenting are doctors themselves.

A Chinese academic publication has stirred controversy recently, nearly a year after it was published.

In November of 2017, the Chinese journal Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion (中国针灸) published an article titled “Discussion on Quantum Entanglement Theory and Acupuncture” (试论“量子纠缠”与针灸), written by Wang Jun (王军), Wu Bin (吴彬), and Chen Sheng (陈晟), who are affiliated with Beijing’s Dongzhimen Hospital and its Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

The authors of the study suggest that there is a so-called ‘quantum entanglement’ between parents and children.

As explained by Science Daily, ‘quantum entanglement’ refers to the idea that “two particles, no matter how distant from each other in space and time, can be inextricably linked, in a way that defies the rules of classical physics.” (Read more on quantum entanglement here).

A summary on the first page of the published paper.

In the controversial paper, Wang and the two co-authors argue that the characteristics of quantum entanglement are reflected in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture theory, and clinical practice, and that acupuncture on a parent would theoretically also be able to treat their children; in other words, suggesting that a sick child (or a child in pain) could benefit from a mother undergoing acupuncture. The same principle would apply to sibling relationships.

Author Wang Jun and co-authors describe they have conducted experiments with 15 patients with pain symptoms and their direct relatives to prove their theory; 14 of these patients and their relatives were put in the same room when receiving the acupuncture treatment, while one patient was separated from their relatives when they received the treatment. Upon completion, the results indicated that all patients’ pain symptoms were at least somewhat alleviated. In four patients, the pain even disappeared.

The study received online attention when it was discussed on popular Q&A platform Zhihu.com and on a science blog earlier last week (September 14).

 

As a doctor, I’m speechless after reading this.”

 

On Zhihu.com, segments of the article were republished online, with the main poster asking: “How should we evaluate the ‘Discussion on Quantum Entanglement Theory and Acupuncture’ (试论“量子纠缠”与针灸)?”

The question, that was viewed more than 80,000 times, received many replies. One comment from a Beijing medical doctor (verified account) named Dr. Zeng said:

(..) “As a doctor, I’m speechless after reading this. This was published in the scientific journal Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion (中国针灸). Based on what I found online, this magazine was founded in 1981 and falls under the responsibility of the Chinese Science and Technology Association (中国科学技术协会); it’s a monthly joint effort by the Chinese Acupuncture Association and the Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion of the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a publication that is at the core of Chinese science and technology, it is a periodical that is at the core of Chinese-language science, and China’s scientific databases (..) In other words, it is a very authoritative publication within the domain of acupuncture. Your research has to be quite great in order for it to be published in it.”

The full version of the publication can be found in the online China Academic Journals Full-text Database, better known as CNKI (中国知网), a national online database under the lead of Tsinghua University.

Dr. Zeng continues:

To suggest that when children fall ill, their parents just need to undergo some acupuncture and they’ll be fine, because there is ‘quantum entanglement’ (量子纠缠) among blood kins – saying that acupuncture on the parents is equal to acupuncture on the children -, this is really serious. According to this theory, we might as well cancel pediatrics.”

The doctor further reprimands the magazine and the authors for letting such a controversial study enter the publication, and thus international academic databases.

 

The only thing that the researchers of this paper prove, is that they themselves need to be treated.”

 

The study, further also criticized on a Science Net blog (where parts of the study were also republished), then started to gain attention on Weibo and other social media platforms, where many popular accounts started spreading the study’s findings.

As a result, netizens started ridiculing the “miraculous” theory and let their imaginations run wild about all the future treatment possibilities. One Weibo users jokingly wrote: “This is a nice new way to discover who your real father is. If the treatment on your father doesn’t bring about any positive results on you, you might have to talk to your neighbor and let him undergo the treatment instead.”

One of the most popular Weibo comments said: “The only thing that the researchers of this paper prove, is that they themselves need to be treated.”

Hashtags such as “Treat the mum with acupuncture if the child gets sick” (#孩子生病扎他妈治疗#)received more than four million views at time of writing.

The research also received attention in Chinese newspapers and online media, where reporters asked other scientists to comment on the controversy.

In an interview in the Science and Technology Daily (科技日报), Zhang Wenzhuo (张文卓), an associate researcher at the Institute of Quantum Information and Technology Innovation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (中国科学院量子信息与量子科技创新), said that the theory presented by Wang Jun and his co-authors is a “very irresponsible abuse of the quantum theory.”

 

It is swindlers such as these who have destroyed TCM.”

 

Since the research has gone viral on Chinese social media, Beijing Dongzhimen Hospital has responded to the controversy from its Weibo account (@北京东直门医院) with an official statement.

The statement confirms that the authors of the publication are affiliated to the Dongzhimen Hospital of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, and says that the hospital has let other experts look into this research.

“After getting an understanding of the situation and closely examining the paper,” they write: “we believe that the theory belongs to the authors’ individual thinkings which they based on connected theories and phenomenon (..)”, and that this particular theory “is not instructive for clinical medicine.”

One of the most popular comments replying to the statement comes from a Suzhou doctor in internal medicine (verified account), who says: “In all seriousness, this is some serious nonsense (“一本正经的胡说八道”).”

Many people also take this research as an opportunity to criticize Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Traditional Chinese Medicine are a national treasure, but too many people use it to cheat on others,” one another commenter writes. “It is swindlers such as these who have destroyed TCM,” another person replies.

Amidst all condemnation of the research, there are some voices on Weibo who are pleading for people to look deeper into the research before attacking it. Others also respond to those saying that Traditional Chinese Medicine are not scientific, saying: “First, make sure you clearly understand what science is.”

According to Chinese online media outlet The Paper, the study’s authors have not responded to any requests to comment on the controversy over their theory.

By Manya Koetse and Gabi Verberg
with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Featured cartoon published by Beijing News in response to the study, by illustrator Liu Jun 刘俊.

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

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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