Fairness in Educational Assessment in China: Historical Practices and Contemporary Challenges

  • Xiaomei SongEmail author
Part of the The Enabling Power of Assessment book series (EPAS, volume 2)


Chinese education is historically examination-oriented. For centuries, high-stakes public examinations have been used as the primary assessment tool to make decisions on learning outcomes, educational upward movement, and social mobility. In present day China, various initiates have been adopted to address issues related to the deeply entrenched testing-oriented practices. Regardless, testing continues to play a major role in education and educational assessment, in particular, for admission, progressing, and accountability purposes. To have an indepth understanding of such a situation, this chapter explores social-cultural factors which influence the determination of the fairness in a high-stakes test. This chapter first reviews the historical development of educational assessment in China and illustrates the significant influence of testing on classroom teaching and learning, followed by an introduction of four major, large-scale educational testing systems. Following that, the chapter focuses on one test in one of the testing systems and explores students’, teachers’, and administrators’ perceptions about the fairness of this test. Results found that the participants endorsed such a testing-oriented system for various reasons, including the fair testing process, the merit-based value, the testing-oriented tradition, and pursuit of efficiency. Finally, the study questions whether fairness, driven by cultural and political ideology, serves to impede the development of fairness for those in the least advantaged positions in China. Dangers remain in treating testing as a predominantly fair and legitimate tool. As formative learning models gain impetus in the twenty-first century, educational policies and practices need to consider balanced and aligned assessment that represents the real benefits and interests of all students.


Educational assessment Chinese educational system Testing Fairness Historical development Chinese testing system Graduate School Entrance Examination Imperial Examination Testing culture Chinese high-stakes testing 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Institutional EffectivenessGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA

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