Gaokao essay topic exposes urban-rural inequality in China – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for June 20, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

It has been almost two weeks since this year’s gaokao (高考 gāokǎo — the nationwide college entrance examination) ended on June 8, but millions of participants are awaiting their test results and the grueling examinations are still a popular conversation topic. Earlier this week, a commentary (in Chinese) by a middle-school teacher in Hubei Province went viral on the Chinese internet. The author argues that an essay question in seven provinces, including Hebei, Hunan, and Guangdong, treats students in rural areas unfairly by including concepts that they are unfamiliar with.

The problematic text reads: “A recent survey based on foreign students in China shows that they are interested in the following China-related keywords: One Belt One Road, panda, square dancing, Chinese food, the Great Wall, bike sharing, Beijing Opera, air pollution, beautiful village, food security, high-speed railway, and mobile payment. Pick two or three words from above to talk about the China you know, and write an article to help foreigners understand China.”

According to the teacher, although the essay question offers a range of possibilities for students to choose from, rural students lack personal experience with most of these subjects. “There is no town square in some remote areas, not to mention square dancing. In the countryside, not many people use mobile payments. For students in impoverished regions, they don’t even know what mobile payments are,” the author wrote. “As for sharing bikes, they only exist in major cities or some medium-sized cities. They are not ‘shared’ with rural students.”

On the social media platform Weibo, some internet users agreed with the author that the essay question put rural students at a disadvantage. “They might have heard of the concept, but they never used shared bikes. How good can an essay be if only based on the imagination?” one commenter wrote (in Chinese). Others disagreed — one person commented: “All students are supposed to keep up with hot topics in society, regardless of where they are based. If the topic of ‘sharing bikes’ is unfair to rural students, then I think ‘beautiful village’ is unfair to urban students as well.”