Chinese vs. Canadian National College Entrance Exams

Chinese National College Entrance Examination

Since the state of China is in the process of modernization, the importance of university entrance is increasing. The national examination is geared toward meeting the needs of the rapidly growing economy, which is marked with a concomitant increase in the number of students joining colleges and universities. The Chinese government also needs to provide quality education.

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The college entrance examination is a vital section of China’s national education system. It plays a critical role in colleges and universities in China by selecting students and determining the direction of basic education. The Chinese National College Entrance Examination (CEE), which is also referred to as Gaokao, is taken by qualified secondary school graduates and those who have equivalent educational qualifications. The National College Entrance Examination is the largest national examination and is paramount importance among the Chinese educational examinations (Davey, De Lian and Higgins 385)

The Difference between the Chinese National College Entrance Examination and the Canadian College Entrance Examination

While the Chinese National College Entrance Examination is designed for her citizens, the case is different in Canada. The mostly undertaken examinations for college entrance in Canada are TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), GRE (Graduate Record Exam), GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), LSAT (Law School Admission Test), and IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

As opposed to Chinese examinations, most of the Canadian exams are designed for students from other countries. The China National College Entrance Examinations are formulated with the goals of producing ‘red experts’ who can build a socialist economy in the modern Chinese nation. On the other hand, Canada college entrance examinations are administered to foreign students to evaluate the suitability of these students for the small number of prestigious universities.

The main purpose of sitting for these exams is to ensure that foreign students in Canada develop high skills and are competitive in the global job market. These examinations are taken on-line and are different depending on the university one desires to join. Conversely, the Chinese college entrance examinations are done in designated areas in various provinces, and the students must be permanent residents of the respective provinces (Zhang 120).

The History of the Chinese National College Entrance Examination and the Imperial Examination

Before the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), the Chinese government was under the imperial dynasty where the governance was hereditary. Regardless of the suitability to leadership, the eldest son would always succeed his father as the leader of the government. This system of ruling led to tyrannical or incapacitated leadership and division between social classes, which led to the fall of several reigns.

Emperor Han improvised criteria for selection of governing officials based on merit by introducing the civil service examination or the imperial examinations which were later refined by Emperor Tang (618 CE-907 CE). The system helped to shape the Chinese political system with the emperor employing the most competent administrators. “You did not have to be a noble to hold a high position. To be assigned a job in a high office in one of the many towns and villages, you had to pass the government exams. It was a route to riches and fame….” (Gan 117).

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The imperial examination system was a government method used to recruit its officials in which the literati and officials got their positions into the royal ranks by sitting for examinations in different disciplines. The outcomes of these examinations determined the fate of the leaders. The system reigned for 13 centuries beginning from the Sui Dynasty (587 A.D) to Qing Dynasty (1904 A.D) with its collapse in Chinese Feudal Society.

The system was characterized by an imperial school system, personnel, and examination systems. The school system was used for the training of talents while the imperial examination system applied in the selection of the subjects. Among these features, the imperial examination system was the basic form. It was vital to the imperial education and cudgel of teaching and learning. The content of the imperial examination comprised philosophies such as Confucianism, Taoism, and Maoism among many others. These philosophies formed complete sets of customs of conduct and conceptual theories necessary for the Chinese feudal system and the soul of traditional Chinese culture (Gan 117).

The imperial examination was divided into three categories namely the regular examination, the irregular examination and examination for the military officialdom. To partake of any of these examinations did not require any special privileges such as family origin or nomination by high hierarchal officials. Rather, one needed to have good health records and an exceptional conduct record without having served in parents’ funeral to take the exam.

After one sat for these exams, he received the title of government student and was considered a member of the class of the degree-holders or literati. They were then entitled to several privileges. Nevertheless, the students were subject to annual mundane re-examination to preserve their titles. Following the prefectural assessments, contenders were expected to sit for middle-level tests in the regional headquarters. The candidates who excelled in this examination were given the juren degree.

Successful middle-level examinations were the metropolitan examinations, which were held in the nation’s capital, where those who succeeded when given the jinshi degree. After one had attained all the three degrees, he was examined by the emperor and his advisors. Those who emerged successful in this process were appointed officials of the highest levels of government.

The Fall of the Imperial Examination System

Though the imperial examination system had a couple of advantages, it also posed numerous challenges. First, the system focused much on the people who could suit in the ruling government termed as “obedient to their elders and incorrupt” and being “virtuous and good, square and upright” (Castrillon 6) without evaluating their political and technical knowledge. The system did not pay much attention to modern topics such as scholarship and manufacturing, which many leaders thought were important for the development of the nation (Feng 35).

It deprived students the right to learn new things by confining learning to Confucianism. Thirdly, the examination system concentrated more on an evident homogeneity of concepts, which was viewed as curtailing for originality and personal outlooks. The examination system involved a tedious process before one could meet the emperor, which was considered a waste of resources that otherwise could have been used to develop the nation. These imperfections leveled against the imperial system were taken to the court in 1905, which gave an edict calling for the abolition of the system (Gan 121).

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Due to the challenges the Republic of China faced under the imperial examination, there was a need to formulate a more favorable system of examination for college and university students. In 1977, the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) was introduced. NCEE is a more centralized educational testing system designed to select high school graduates for regular higher education. It was introduced by the central government after the People’s Republic of China was formed by the Communist Party of China (Gan 122).

The NCEE operates under two levels of management. The ministry of education is mandated with the obligation of setting policies on examinations and admissions and formulating examination specification rules or guidelines (Feng 38). The other arm is the local government, which administers the examinations by setting up the examination venues within the administrative zones of county-level cities. The two examination authority levels are tasked with the administration of the college entrance examination with the help of schools and colleges. The candidates had to sit for the examinations in their residential cities and finalize their college submissions under conventional enrolment procedures (Yeung 17).

Features of the Chinese National College Examinations

For the candidates to sit for the NCEE, they have to register with national exam bodies and complete the application form for the selection of colleges or universities of their choice. The logistics and time of applications differ between the provinces as it can happen prior to or after the examinations have been done and results published. The details required for registration are personal and family details, previous schools attended, academic achievements, medical examination reports, and moral and political assessment (records of candidates’ approaches to political policies, criminal record check, and cult membership).

Each student’s details are documented and used to define the eligibility to sit for the exam. For instance, candidates who previously opposed the government policies or were involved in illegal deals were not permitted to sit for the exams (Yeung 25).

The application processes for the selection of the universities belong to four categories. The first part entails special universities such as army and police academies. The second section comprises prestigious universities and those authorized by the ministry of education. The third section consists of private universities and those not authorized by the government. The fourth section is those universities and colleges that offer undergraduate studies such as diploma courses. The examination consists of the mandatory units, which include Chinese, English and mathematics and optional subjects of interest to the candidate. The system of examination is referred to as the “3+X” (Yeung 26).

The Objective of the National College Entrance Examination

The main objective of the formation of NCEE was to build a socialist Chinese economy. The involved authorities ensured selection of trustworthy, physically fit, and academically prepared candidates who can be trained as ‘red experts’ for socialist formation and modernization of Chinese Republic. The second purpose of NCEE was to unite the citizens to encourage or build a socialist motherland. The Chinese government believed two paramount groups could play this role. These were the cultural group and the intellectuals or the professionals (professors, scientists, doctors, engineers, and schoolteachers). The final goal was to calm the animosity among the Chinese citizen, which arose during the Cultural Revolution (Yeung 27).

Similarities and Differences between the Imperial Examination and the NCEE

The two forms of examination shared commonalities as well as differences. The two examination systems shared eighteen common factors. These included organization and administration, requirement of political qualification, social political discrimination, trustworthiness of people, unifying people’s ideology, and social customs, quota policy, anonymity and placement policy. The two systems also differed in various ways such as the dimensions of their basic responsibilities, academic requirements, the people’s attitude towards the quota policy, and the attitudes of those who succeeded in the examinations towards the systems and the central power (Feng 33).

Regarding responsibility, the imperial was tasked with the recruitment of government officials while the NCEE was involved in the selection of students to join higher education. The attitude of successful candidates from the two systems also differed. Those who graduated from the imperial system were supposed to be the emperor’s subjects, which they felt was a way of intimidating them. Conversely, the students who undertook the NCEE felt they were denied the opportunity to choose wanted to be (Feng 34).

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The Impact of the Past Examination on the Chinese Labor Market

The China National College Entrance Examination system has led to an increase in the number of students joining higher education and consequently the graduates released from these universities. The system has improved the chances for students from all types of backgrounds joining higher learning because it gives an opportunity for students from less privileged minority groups to access higher education. Research shows that the exam system had increased students’ admission to universities, which had grown from 40% in 1999 to 47% in 2005 (Davies 5).

Since the year 1977 when the National College Entrance Examination was introduced, several reforms have been made to suit students with different capacities. Before the reforms, the system favored the recruitment of elites and only admitted a few students to highly competitive colleges and universities. The reforms shifted the system focus from elite-based to higher education that promotes social and economic growth to satisfy the high demand for higher education and ease employment challenges (Zeng 203).

Changes in the Chinese examination system have improved the education system in China, which had placed the country among the world’s largest education providers. However, the key consequence of releasing a high number of students from colleges and university is unemployment. According to the national body for research on the recruitment of labor forces in China (CIER), the number of graduates facing unemployment is overwhelming. Due to the rise in the number of job seekers in China, the labor incentive has also taken a negative turn. Because of few competitive job opportunities in China, there is a widening income inequality (Zeng 206).

The labor force has also been compromised in terms of quantity and quality. There have been several cases or labor unrest and protests in Chinese factories due to poor working conditions. For instance, there were two emblematic labor unrest and protests namely the Honda’s strike and Foxconn’s suicide in 2010.

The Foxconn suicide came because of the Dormitory Labor Regime, which was used as a labor-intensive tactic in manufacturing industries. It was termed a menace to laborers’ psychological health. On the other hand, the Honda’s strike advocated for the labor contract through negotiation.

These two incidences are a reflection of poor working conditions for the diminishing job market in China with her expanding number of elites (Zeng 215). China can be said to be enjoying its economic achievement at the expense of the suffering of her citizens. According to Davies (6), though the market economy provided by the CEE has brought impressive economic growth to China, it has also brought serious social and educational inequalities.

In conclusion, the Chinese system of education has led to the growth of elites produced from colleges and universities at a higher rate than the current market can absorb, which has escalated the unemployment rate and cheap labor (Yeung 13).

Works Cited

Castrillon, David 2012. The Abolition of the Imperial Examination System and the Xinhai Revolution of 1911. Web.

Davey, Gareth, Chuan De Lian, and Louise Higgins. “The University Entrance Examination System in China.” Journal of Further and Higher Education 31.4 (2007): 385-396. Print.

Davies, Bronwyn. “The (Im) possibility of Intellectual Work in Neoliberal Regimes.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 26.1 (2005): 1-14. Print.

Feng, Yuan. “From the Imperial Examination to the National College Entrance Examination: The Dynamics of Political Centralism in China’s Educational Enterprise.” The Journal of Contemporary China 4.8 (1995): 28-56. Print.

Gan, He. “Chinese Education Tradition-The Imperial Examination System in Feudal China.” Journal of Management and Social Sciences 4.2 (2008): 115-133. Print.

Yeung, Ng Wei-Jun Jean. “China’s Higher Education Expansion and Social Stratification.” Chinese Sociological Review 45.4(2013): 54-80. Print.

Zeng, Xiangquan, and Yumei Yang 2015. Challenges and Resolutions in China’s Labor Market. Web.

Zhang, Yu 2011. The Determinants of National College Entrance Exam Performance. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Chinese vs. Canadian National College Entrance Exams." January 7, 2021.


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