Over 300 Chinese students flunk postgraduate exam

Sydney, Aug 27 (IANS) Over 300 Chinese students flunked an examination of a masters degree programme at the University Of Sydney in Australia, a media report here said.

About 37 percent of more than 1,200 students were given a failed grade in a postgraduate business course at the University of Sydney. Most of them were Chinese students, reported the Global Times on Wednesday.

Cecily Huang, the author of the Global Times article, worked for the Guardian Beijing office as a researcher and news assistant and is currently studying for a Master of Arts in Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney.

“It must be something wrong with the system! It was not only me; more than 300 Chinese students failed this exam,” a Chinese girl screamed on the phone as Huang travelled on a train between Epping and Central here — the outburst evoked her journalistic instincts and led to the article thereafter.

The massive flunking event has escalated since some Chinese students have sought appeals against their results.

Although the University of Sydney attributes the problem to students’ English level, language is certainly not the main reason. Every Chinese student had to get a relatively high English score to be accepted to the masters programme.

The subject is called Critical Thinking in Business, one of the core units required to complete a Master of Commerce. In this exam, all the questions were open-ended.

“I am not surprised Chinese students lack critical thinking, because under the Chinese education system, most Chinese students learned chiefly how to respect authority, and how to seek one standard answer,” said Huang.

“Once Chinese students are given different options, they get confused and frustrated. They are not used to a more exploratory learning style.

“In real life, there is no standard answer but more options and solutions. Unfortunately, we do not know it until we begin real work,” she said.

Most Chinese students who came to this business programme had just finished their bachelor degree in China.

“Without any working experience, how could they analyse business cases with critical thinking? It reminded me of a student, from my journalism programme, who wanted to report on the Gaza war without even basic knowledge of the background.”

“The business students I have interviewed told me they worked very hard, but the results were completely unexpected,” Huang said.

According to her, “hard work” does not necessarily lead to good marks in a masters programme. It requires effort, as well as interest and creativity.

“In China, we study to pass the ‘gaokao’, or to find a job with decent salary, not for love of the subject. I am so tired of being questioned by my very concerned relatives, ‘How much money do you make’ or ‘how much can you get for your published article’. They do not care whether I enjoy my job or what my article is about.”

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