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.
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.