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Higher Learning Dilemma> Archive
UPDATED: December 7, 2009 NO. 49 DECEMBER 10, 2009
Principals and the Power of Recommending Students

I cannot see anything wise in PKU's recommendation policy and I'm afraid it might lead to greater education inequality. Some students are very talented in one area and most may be extremely good at one subject while meanwhile very bad at another. They are always excluded from key middle schools. The recommendation policy will not help them at all. They only have two choices: either to become enrolled by a key middle school through bribery or to be neglected forever.

Chen Yizhou (www.china.com.cn):

Undoubtedly, the 39 selected middle schools have an outstanding quality of student and conditions and this is the key reason why they are selected. The recommendation policy actually represents a kind of privilege. There exists a large gap in educational opportunities and educational resources between developed and underdeveloped regions and between urban and rural areas in present China.

The more prestigious a middle school is, the more government financial input and social investment will pour in. As a result, educational resources will increasingly be concentrated on a small number of schools in limited regions. Unequal resource distribution gradually enlarges the shortcomings of the current education system—and leads to unfairness that people have to bear.

We all know the 39 middle schools whose headmasters are entitled to recommend students have certain privileges and not a single countryside middle school lives up to PKU's requirements.

The recommendation policy is only a trial. But, no matter if this policy survives or not, it will bring about a deterioration in equality in educational resource distribution.

Kuang Ziqian (China Youth Daily): It is sometimes possible that a student who has a special gift and is confirmed by a social celebrity or school principal as a potential genius or talent fails to be recruited by prestigious universities under the current education system. If the celebrity or headmaster, as a result, decides to recommend the student to universities, guaranteeing the excellence of the student by his social reputation, this should undoubtedly be a demanded supplement to the current college entrance examination system. But this practice should only be an exception and a supplement, instead of a regular process.

I'm sure that PKU must have studied similar recommendation policies in other countries and that they must know in Western countries, a number of middle schools are private, whose headmasters are not government officials and thus do not need to obey as many government directives as Chinese principals do. Besides, these private school principals are largely very rich. Therefore, they are not as interested in benefiting from the recommendation practice through corruption. But the situation in China is totally different. Recent years have seen so many education-related corruption cases, is PKU capable of preventing principals from playing tricks?

Wei Wenbiao (Guangzhou Daily): PKU hopes to enroll a greater number of excellent senior middle school graduates, but while there is no effective control over principals' administrative power, the recommendation policy will easily give rise to corruption. Besides, in some cases, in order to ensure more students are recruited by colleges, middle schools might deliberately choose to recommend students who are not so outstanding, because the top students are expected to win the honor of "laureate" in the national college entrance examination to the schools.

If colleges really want to recruit the most outstanding students, it's not necessarily for them to ask the principals to recommend students, but they'd better ask students to recommend themselves. This practice also helps prevent corruption.

Since the principal's recommendation system is operated through middle school principals' power, corruption and the abuse of power are possible. Therefore, non-administrative work such as recommending students to colleges should be operated outside the principals' power. If excellent students are allowed to recommend themselves to colleges, it will be difficult for officials to intervene in the recommendation processes; and corruption and inequality in education will be prevented to the largest extent.

He Chunhua (www.scol.com.cn): PKU has strict requirements on the schools that have rights to recommend students. The schools must submit applications to prove the quality of their education and conditions. This regulation has actually made the recommendation policy unfair in the first place. How are the middle schools in underdeveloped central and western parts of the country able to compete with well-equipped middle schools in developed eastern regions?

Undoubtedly, the present college entrance examination is imperfect, but relatively speaking it's fair, because under this system, students in any part of the country enjoy the same opportunities to be recruited by colleges. At least, in its present state, the college entrance examination system offers students in underdeveloped central and western regions a relatively fair platform to compete with their peers from developed areas.

While reforming the present examination-oriented education system, education authorities must be careful in practicing their administrative power, so as not to deprive students from impoverished areas of their last opportunity of attending prestigious higher-learning institutions.

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