My wife's cousin from Xi'An arrived yesterday. She's with us for a couple of days to brush up her english. My wife told me in the beginning that this will help her to get into a Hong Kong university. But by now I've found out much more about this topic, and it's really scary what's going on.
In Europe, or at least Germany, you kind of have two years to prove how good you are. The exam scores of the last two school years are more or less deciding to what kind of university you can go to. Here in China, a two day long exam decides your future. It's held in the last month of your last year in school. That's nuts, in my humble opinion!
Let's say you're a good student in China. You learn hard and well. But you're nervous easily. So you go to the university exam for two days and you're so nervous that you mess it up. Then it's over! You can either spend another year and repeat the test, or you can apply for 2nd or 3rd grade universities. And here's the horror: Chinese companies value you much more then in other countries on your university. They care a lot about the place you've studied. So, if you perform bad in the final exam test, kiss your future goodbye.
But that's only half of the craziness. What's almost more insane is the fact, that you have to apply to universities without knowing your final score. No, you have to calculate your score yourself first. When you finish the exam, you'll receive a sheet with all the right answers and a paper for applying to universities. Then you go home, you try to remember what you wrote in the exam and you score yourself!
Once you have your final score, you look at what universities might accept you - but they don't really tell you what kind of score you need to have. You have to check what kind of score ranges they took in the past and you have to guess if you're in that range. Example: You calculated that you final score is 500 out of 600. So you check around, and you find out that University X in Shanghai accepted students with 475 points or more. Then you can try to apply there.
But it's a gamble, really: If you have bad luck, the university maybe only accepts students with 510 points or more this year. Then you can only get accepted there if too little people applied - and that's almost never the case. What's even worse is if you calculate your own score way too low - maybe you really have 500 points, but you're calculating defensive and give yourself only 400. Then you can never apply to a good university, because of the fact that you don't know for sure what your score really is! Is that totally crazy or what??!
Whoever invented this system must be a sadistic fuck, really.
Last written point is the case with my wife's cousin. She performed well but calculated her score way too low and thus applied to far worse universities than she could actually go to. Another problem is, once you've applied for three universities, you can't 'switch' to others anymore. You're out. Take it or leave it. So she can now study in a 2nd grade university and forget about ever getting a really good job in the future - or she can try to get into a Hong Kong or foreign university. Or waste another year of her life, repeating the exam and try gambling again. If her parents couldn't afford a foreign university she'd be stuck with going to the universities she picked, now.
I hope China changes this system in the near future, it's really not fair. And a person shouldn't be judged by a two day test, everyone has a bad day every once in a while. And knowing that this test decides your future puts probably an insane amount of pressure on you, so you're even less able to focus on it. Evil!