Friday, May 29, 2009

Less People are Taking the College Entrance Exam in China

job hunting of college graduates

The news that attracted most viewer comments on on Friday was the one about the impact of the dire job market for college graduates. The China Youth Daily story reported that the number of people registered for the 2009 College Entrance Exam decreased in most provinces in China. Many places, such as Hebei Province, saw registered exam takers decrease for the first time in decades. The overall number of registered exam takers will still remain at a high level of about 10 million, according to the China Youth Daily.

The College Entrance Exam is the harshest competition for generations of young Chinese since the late 1970s. Every year, millions of teenagers taking the same exam on the same days to get into a relatively small number of higher education institutions has become a prominent and rather unique social phenomenon in China. The exam has been fervently condemned as well as defended. It is seen as the culprit for the test-oriented education approach in China that is blamed for suffocating the creativity and independent thinking of tens of millions of Chinese students. But at the same time, the system stands tall over the years as important means for providing fair opportunities for the poor and powerless, especially young adults from rural area.

The number of registered exam takers generally kept increasing in previous years, and doubled from 2002 to 2008. It is surprising for many to see the number decreas nation wide. China Youth Daily pointed at the difficulty for college graduates to find a job in recent years as the main reason for the decrease. Another reason the newspaper discusses was the increasing trend of high school graduates attending college abroad. Nearly 7000 comments posted by viewers, however, reveal some other reasons for less people wanting to pursue a college degree, which used to be regarded as the best choice for young people to have a better future.

Some complain that college education is not necessary, either because knowing someone is more helpful in finding a job, or because employers start to look at the actual capability, rather than diploma when hiring. But many people seem to be displeased by the fact that social connections, or guanxi, still play a bigger role in personal development than education or talents in Chinese society. Some criticize that college education in China is like a joke, neither faculty nor students taking it seriously, and students can learn little from college. Another reason indicated is the high cost of college education. “It is better to start to work and make money early than going to college, ” one comment says. Some also say that less people are taking the exam simply because the population is decreasing because of the one-child policy.