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New ways to help rural students attend key universities

GPIG by Zhang Ling, September 26, 2016 Adjust font size:

Recently 95 key universities that enroll rural students independently (namely through the special higher-education enrollment plan for rural students) issued admissions brochures for this year. Higher education institutes have lowered the threshold for rural students to attend well-known universities and listed a series of initiatives on the brochures, including expanding enrollment, canceling school on-site re-exam and specifying key training programs after enrollment, which demonstrates their resolution to enhance educational opportunities for the poor.

To make the rural admission program cover more students, education workers emphasized the need to complete the inspection mechanism from admission to training and other accompanying measures. In the long term, more investment should be made in rural education so as to close the education gap between rural and urban areas.

Lowered Passing Score

Due to the decreasing proportion of rural students at colleges and universities, especially top ones, some key universities in China have had a rural admission program in place since 2014, allowing diligent, high-performing rural students from remote, poor or ethnic minority households to be admitted. The Ministry of Education has stated that rural students should take up more than 2% of the undergraduates enrolled annually.

The rural admission program features admission score cuts. For example, Tsinghua University’s passing score reduction has 4 levels, ranging from 30 to 60. Rural students whose Gaokao scores are above the Tier 1 cut-off score in their hometown can even be Peking University candidates.

Unlike the situation 2 years ago, this year many universities have streamlined the admissions process in order to relieve the burden brought by long distance exam taking by poor rural students. To this end, Fudan University canceled the written exam and interview before the Gaokao. Beijing Normal University has canceled the multiple ability test and interview, requiring candidates to submit video data for reevaluation instead.

The director of Fudan University’s admission office said, “Through online application and school reevaluation, universities reach more applicants who join the rural admission program, bringing them more chances.”

Targeted and Inclusive Training

The ability of students who are enrolled through a lowered threshold to learn at the same level as their classmates is another question. Some universities have explored constructive approaches.

Zheng Hao, Deputy Party Committee Secretary of the School of Chemistry and Chemical Technology in Shanghai Jiao Tong University, stated that rural students usually have a weak foundation and that some even receive warnings to drop out. To address this, universities offer adaptability education to help freshmen through collective self-study, student-on-student tutoring and other means.

Some universities that intended to put rural students into one class changed their plan after observing the obvious gap between rural and normal students: they tried an integrated class model and provided extracurricular activities to improve the former’s overall ability.

Wang Binhua, director of the Shanghai International Studies University’s admission office said, “Universities won’t disclose student admission information in the hope of promoting educational equity by disburdening rural students of their weak foundation.”

Ding Guanghong said, “Never let poor students drop out or fall behind.” It is reported that Fudan University has held 6 sessions of a Rural Students Empowerment Program, which has improved the computer operating and English levels of over 2000 rural students over the past year. According to the follow-up research by Fudan University, most students with a weak foundation who receive 1 to 2 years of targeted training outperform their peers later.

Complete Pro-poor Education

Professor Wu Zunmin from the School of Education Science in East China Normal University claimed, “In Gaokao reform, approaches to display the character of rural students in comprehensive evaluation and to prevent universities from focusing too much on students’ academic performance are worth thoughtful consideration.”

At the same time, education experts maintain that “pro-poor Gaokao” is part of “pro-poor education”. Only when more investment is made in rural education, can more poor rural students attend key universities.

Zheng Hao believed that pro-poor education needs detailed management urgently. To ensure all students from poor rural families receive proper education, a guarantee mechanism must be established. Rural school standardization should be promoted, and the rotation mechanism of elite teachers should be completed in order for elite teaching resources to be shared evenly between rural and urban areas.

In addition, employment lies at the end of the pro-poor education chain. Xiong Bin, director of East China Normal University’s admission office, told reporters that his university’s rural admission program aims to enroll students who will enjoy free tuition and become teachers after graduation so as to encourage students to contribute to the education of their hometown.