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The National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gaokao), a centralized test administered to high school students seeking admission to college, has been in use since the late 1970s and retains a strong social and educational function and significance. Concerns and debates elicited by the Entrance Exam, and the related reform policies that intend to mitigate problems surrounding it, include policies working towards diversifying admission standards and implementing talent-based selection criteria
Gaokao 高考is the Chinese term for the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (hereafter referred to as “the Entrance Exam”), the primary avenue for high school graduates to gain admission to colleges and universities in China. The Entrance Exam is a nationally centralized, high-stakes examination that has been a standard since post–Cultural Revolution China. Although the Ministry of Education began experimenting with alternative examinations and admission methods in the late 1990s, the influence of such polices introduced to enhance educational quality (sùzhì 素质) in content, teaching methods, student learning outcomes, and management remains marginal compared to the Entrance Exam. Since 1998, China has experienced a decade of rapid expansion in higher education, which increased the student population in such institutions by over 5.9 times; the average admission rate for high school graduates increased from 34 percent in 1998 to 64 percent in 2009 (Ministry of Education 2010a). The Entrance Exam remains highly competitive, not only because of the cultural-social “educational desire” of the Chinese people (Kipnis 2011), but also because, along with the expansion process, higher education institutions in China have become increasingly stratified in terms of quality and social recognition. “The competition and desire for admission to elite universities has increased even as the size of China’s college-going population has exploded” (Ross and Wang 2010, 4).