News - June 7, 2012

What score could I get on the Dutch Eindexamen?

Three weeks ago when I was thumbing through a Dutch newspaper, my eyes rested on an article's title: 'Eindexamens van start, veel klachten', which literally means start of final high school exams, many complaints.

A class of students in Zhenshen, a major city of Canton province, posed for a picture with their revered teacher before Gaokao. This year there are about 692.000 Gaokao candidates in Canton.
I was not surprised by the complaining since it is part of the Dutch way of life, even though the total number this year is so far up to a whopping 124531, according to the statistics by LAKS. What made me curious was the Eindexamen, because in China the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, aka Gaokao in Manarin, is, to many Chinese, one of the few most critical moments in the life. A whim spontaneously popped up in my mind: can I survive the Dutch Gaokao? To answer this question, I tested myself with the English exam for the VWO-ers in Eindexamen 2006, the year of my Gaokao.

At first glance it looked quite intimidating: 20 pages, 11 articles, 44 questions within 2.5 hours; I hadn't played such a kind of intensive exam for ages, I doubted if I could make it in time. I chose the dining hall in Forum for the test because, based on my memory, it's the best resemblance of Chinese exam room. I started the clock at 15.49. Unexpectedly I was soon floored by Text 3, 'WTF, are you kidding me?' I couldn't help casting F-bomb when facing a question totally in Dutch. Later the same situation occurred for a few more times; I gave them up, which turned out to be worth 11 points.

Fortunately I went smoothly with the rest and finished it in 1.5 hours. So what's my score? I obtained 33 points out of 51, equivalent to 6.2 when converted into the final grade. Most Chinese would see it as a disastrous result; but the Dutch may regard it as a success since it's above 5.5, the minimum pass grade in Eindexamen. The well-known Dutch zesjescultuur taught me two things: 1. enough is enough; 2. when in the Netherlands, do as the Dutch do. Therefore I should be satisfied with this score.

Which exam is more difficult? The Dutch one has obviously higher requirements of vocabulary while in the Chinese one, dictionaries are forbidden, school exams are not taken into account, and students are not allowed to use Mandarin to answer questions. Besides, the goal of Chinese Gaokao is to achieve a score as high as possible, not just a 5.5. But it's useless to simply discuss the difficulty level of the exams. What we should ask ourselves, instead, is how the education can lead to more students to speaking good English after high school. For that goal, in my humble opinion, both Dutch and Chinese educators have a long way to go.

Anyway, the annual Gaokao begins today; here I give my best wishes to those 9 million exam candidates in China. Success!

Vid of the Week: In China Gaokao is always the hot topic in June, as hot as the weather.