Girl, 14, on fast track to Peking University

By Cao Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-26 07:21

Girl, 14, on fast track to Peking University
Fourteen-year-old Hong Xinge (also below) is besieged by reporters in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, on Tuesday after becoming one of the first students in China to be offered a new way into the prestigious Peking University. Hong earned a recommendation from the headmaster at Tianyi High School for an interview at the institution. She was the youngest of the 90 students who received such nominations nationwide. [Photo by Chen Liang/China Daily]

SHANGHAI: A 14-year-old female student from Jiangsu province is poised to step from the textbooks into the history books after she was tipped to enroll at one of China's top universities, thanks to a pilot program aimed at improving the country's university entrance system.

Hong Xinge, from Tianyi High School in Wuxi, is believed to be the youngest of 90 students nationwide to receive nominations from their headmasters to attend Peking University.

Girl, 14, on fast track to Peking University

She submitted her application on Wednesday.

The next step for the prodigy will be an interview at the world-renowned institution.

The 90 students selected to take part in the pilot program come from 10 provinces around China, as well as the cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing.

Students who do well in the interview will stand a much better chance of getting into the university because they will not need to score as high as others in the university entrance exam.

The reform of the university entrance process being piloted by Peking University offers a backdoor into the university for exceptional students who might not necessarily do well in the entrance exam. The reform is aimed at ensuring quality students are not overlooked simply because of their performance in the national university entrance exam.

A teacher surnamed Zhou, who helped Hong with her application, said: "Hong Xinge has not only high grades, but also a good personality."

She is extremely good at teaching herself, Zhou added.

Schoolmaster Shen Maode told Yangtze Evening News on Tuesday that Hong scored well in international proficiency tests. She earned a 7.5 in the IELTS test, a 106 on the TOEFL test and got a maximum score in her United States SATs.

Girl, 14, on fast track to Peking University

Hong excels at Chinese and English and, at her tender age, is already working on her first novel. Classmates pointed out that she is an all-rounder, having won awards for long-distance running and Latin dancing, the paper said.

Hong told the paper she hopes to study finance at Peking University and eventually start her own business.

Zhou said: "She is an excellent student and may not have a problem entering Peking University even without this recommendation."

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The experiment at Peking University gives qualified high school headmasters the chance to recommend exceptional students. On Nov 16, the university released a list of 39 high school headmasters nationwide authorized to take part.

While some education analysts hailed the pilot project as reform that might greatly improve the university entrance system, some have said it might lead to fewer opportunities for students from less respected high schools that have not been invited to take part.

A survey conducted by leading Chinese web portal showed 10,046 out of 14,227 people surveyed were against the new idea. Most said the recommendations were unfair on other students.

Xue Yong, a Peking University alumni who is now an assistant professor at Suffolk University, told Qianjiang Evening News the experiment could be dangerous if it is abused.

But Qu Jun, former deputy director of Shanghai municipal education commission and now a legislator, said the experiment represents much needed change to the existing university entrance system, which has been criticized for years.

"We have been talking about reform for years," he said. "We won't know if it works or not if we never start."

Tang Shengchang, headmaster of Shanghai High School, said the pilot program may lead to additional reforms.

He urged the public to be patient and wait to see whether the idea works.

"It will take time for us to recognize students who are creative and talented in certain subjects but who may not be able to enter top schools because of the harsh entrance examination," Tang said.