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UPDATED: July 6, 2010 NO. 27 JULY 8, 2010
Never Too Old to Take Exams?

This year marks the 10th time 81-year-old Wang Xia took the national college entrance exam.

Wang is a well-known figure in Nanjing, capital of eastern Jiangsu Province. He became known to the public in 2001 at 72 when he entered himself for the college entrance exam—the oldest examinee in the whole country. He said he had felt uncomfortable when people doubted his expertise in medicine and surgery, and wanted to prove himself by gaining a college degree.

The old man, accompanied by examinees more than 60 years his juniors, took the exam again this year. Many people understand what he is trying to achieve and say they believe it is his individual choice and must be respected. They admire his perseverance and his unswerving determination. But some contend it is a total waste of time a senior citizen should invest so much time and energy in exams when he should really be enjoying quality time with family and friends. Others complain Wang is wasting precious education resources that are in short supply.

Example to all

Yan Yang (Yangcheng Evening News): Aside from clichés about education being the right of every citizen, Wang's 10 attempts to pass the college entrance exam conform to the original intention of education.

Education is meant to train people for various professions. We take it for granted. In years when educational resources were in short supply, the government held exams to choose a certain number of outstanding students to go to college with the purpose of training professional personnel to contribute to economic growth. This policy was irreproachable in the era of underdevelopment several decades ago. Then, handicapped persons could hardly receive higher education. It was believed if handicapped candidates were admitted but were unable to take up the professions they had learned in college after graduation due to physical disability, limited educational resources would have been wasted. Because of similar concerns, senior citizens were barred from taking the exam.

Fortunately, with ever-growing educational resources and the prevalence of higher learning, people have new opportunities to reflect on the role of education. Education is not only designed to teach survival skills to people. It should also meet people's pursuits of self-development.

During the process of pursuing the original intention of education, the government gradually loosened restrictions on the handicapped going to college and did away with age and marital status restrictions for examinees. As a result, senior citizens such as Wang have since then had the opportunity to take the college entrance exam and go to college. People hailed government decisions to phase out restrictions on age and marital status. But when someone like Wang actually takes the exam and wants to go to college, some take a negative attitude and mock the old man's attempts. This kind of self-contradictory attitude must be abandoned.

Worthless obsession

Chen Yao (www.chinanews.com.cn): The 81-year-old man's courage and perseverance in taking the college entrance exam is indeed inspiring and encouraging. But from my point of view, we should not attach undue drama to it.

Everyone has his or her dreams, which help largely to propel them toward their future development. But the ideal must be in accordance with reality, and must be revised and readjusted in line with changes in environment. Otherwise, the ideal will deviate from reality and become a castle in the air. Insistence is sometimes just one step away from paranoia. The old man's repeated attempts to pass the college entrance exam are not reasonable.

During preparation for the exam, Wang might feel much joy and a sense of self-fulfillment. But the cost of taking the opportunities is also high. If Wang spent more time with his families and friends than studying, or doing physical exercise, would he lose or gain more? Sometimes one has to lose something to get something. But is it worthwhile to lose something you should really care about to accomplish an impossible mission? Is it correct to throw off families' understanding and happiness to pursue something intangible?

The fact Wang was able to take part in the college entrance exam shows social progress. But it does not necessarily mean his insistence is a recommendable way of proceeding. It would be wrong to overestimate the old man' attempts.


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