Gaokao "Rebel" Changes Tune
    2012-10-17 18:33:37         Web Editor: Fuyu

Chinese people often say, "The gaokao (the national college entrance exam) changes a student's destiny" because it provides opportunity for students from less developed regions to enter prestigious universities and to get good jobs after graduation. But there has been increasing criticism against it, because it forces students to study only for the purpose of exam. Since 2006, each year there have been a couple of students who deliberately failed the gaokao to make their voices against the exam heard. Twenty three-year-old Xu Mengnan, who was supposed to go to college, now works at a pig hair processing factory in Jiangsu Province due to deliberately failing the gaokao.

Zhang Wan has more.


Xu Mengnan detested the idea of taking exams and going to college. He deliberately failed his college entrance exam back in 2008 in protest of China's education system, which he felt was deeply flawed. But now the repentant 23-year-old is urging students to play by the rules. He says he still believes the education system needs reform, but failing the exam is not the way out.

Xu was in the top 10 percent of students during his first year in high school. But when he became a sophomore, things changed.

"Previously I was a hardworking student, and I did well in school. But when I was in high school, I read a book by Han Han. In the book, Han called the Chinese education system a failure, criticizing teachers, schools, mathematics class, enrollment system and students. After reading the book, I felt I had been cheated by the education system."

Born in the 1080s, Han Han is a popular writer, blogger and race car driver. Han dropped out of high school at 18 to become a writer and auto racer.

Influenced by Han Han's book, Xu silently rebelled against his education and focused on reading books and writing about how the education system should be reformed. He wrote articles urging education institutions to take into account a student's interests and talents rather than test scores alone. He wrote to education authorities. But his call got no answer.

Xu figured public attention was what he needed to be taken seriously. After scoring 143 out of 750, he got the media attention he wanted. But the attention was unflattering and fleeting. Not many people supported what then 19-year-old had done. Although he started to become repentant, it's too late.

"I felt that I was so rebellious before, but my mind was immature. That was a mistake."

After deliberately failing the gaokao, Xu had to do some odd jobs to make a living. Since he got married, he has been working at a factory owned by his in-laws and earns about 3,000 yuan per month.

In his spare time, Xu started to write his story and the stories of others like him online. He set up a website this year, where he collects stories about students who scored zero on the gaokao and news reports on education, as well as his own thoughts on the topic.

"I just want to make more people to pay attention to education reform through the website, and do all I can to contribute to education reform. As for the gaokao, all we can do currently is to play by the rules. Only after we conquer the exam and improve ourselves can we change it."

Xu has never felt the urge to go back to school more strongly than he does now. Before the gaokao took place this June, he had recurring dreams about going back to high school and taking the exam again.

Xu and his wife are expecting a baby in January next year. Looking back, he says now he would like his child to take the beaten path of textbooks and exams because now he understands you cannot change it simply by saying no to it.

For CRI, I am Zhang Wan.


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