Yunyi Fan, China APMA 2019
In China, nearly 10 million students participate in college entrance examination every year. Competition is fierce; only 20% of them get admitted to China’s top universities. Under these circumstances, that some “special students” can get extra points is only fair.
For example, a student who is a minority in China and chooses to take the exam in Beijing can get five extra points. This bonus is not because these students show greater learning potential, or have other talents, but because they were born to ethnic minorities. Comparing with Han students, students in minorities can get chances to go to better universities with the same scores. More and more people think that it is a kind of reverse discrimination for people of Han nationality.
It is a recognized basic principle that universities should recruit the best students. But in fact, more factors must be considered. First of all, ethnic minority gathering places are mostly located in remote areas of China. Due to geographical restrictions, their economic development is backward. Poverty leads to a lack of access to education.
Secondly, some ethnic minorities use different languages to communicate rather than Standard Mandarin. Students of these ethnic groups do not have the daily Chinese language environment, they can only learn Mandarin through school curriculums. Language becomes a restricting factor for them to get higher education in China. Moreover, due to customs or religions, some ethnic minority students tend to complete their studies near their place of residence and then return to work and live in their places of birth. This leads to less students of minority backgrounds in universities compared to Han students. This leads to a selection of top universities that are much smaller than Han students.
These factors disadvantages minority students. The privilege policy for ethnic minority students in China is a temporary policy to correct this inequality. In fact, in the past years, it has contributed to improvement of lives on ethnic minorities and achieve national equality. Perhaps there are ethnic minority students who are well-educated and have no religion or area limitation who get the bonus, but the world does not have absolute fairness and, again, the privilege policy to ethnic minority students is just temporary policy.
It is acceptable as a short-term strategy. However, it can be a violation of equal access to education when it lasts for a long time. The right way to correct the effects of unequal preparation in the long term is not to create another inequality but to address the original problem.
To make such a policy obsolete in the future, I think, the state should give more support to basic education in minority areas. For example, to build more primary schools for minority kids. If it is considered to be inefficient in some areas, at least to provide access to schools which have well-established educational facilities. And also, the shortage of teachers in some remote areas should be resolved. The government should implement preferential policies, such as a better welfare standard, to encourage people to work in these places. Last but not least, the government should ensure that minority children who suffer from extreme poverty can afford to attend classes by increasing the budget for poor families to make sure that educational resources are affordable.
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*The contents of this opinion piece are solely those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the view of the either Global Campus of Human Rights Asia Pacific, the universities under it, or the APMA program.