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Students, experts baffled over exam
( 2003-11-11 10:20) (China Daily)

Controversy has arisen in East China's Jiangsu Province concerning the validity of a math question in this year's college entrance examination.

What interests me is not the story itself, but the fact that it remains unresolved after five months of repeated evaluations by high-profile experts.

After the national examination ended in early June, many participants and teachers claimed that the first question, a multiple choice one, has no correct answer.

Local educational authorities soon overruled that possibility, saying experts have re-examined it.

However, Zhu Ruzeng, a mechanics scientist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the dubious nature of the challenged question is obvious.

He appealed to the Examination Centre of the Ministry of Education, which considered the controversial topic. The centre then approached four math professors to examine the issue. Their findings have been inconclusive.

The latest development has involved 12 academics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences signing a declaration supporting Zhu.

Common sense tells me the exam question, the first in the test and what would generally be a simple one, should not have stirred such confusion among such high-profile scholars.

While I'm uncertain about which side I support, the words of the conclusion from the ministry examination centre experts have sent an obvious message.

The conclusion says the topic is not flawed "scientifically;" if its expression had been made clearer, it would not have stirred such controversy. As such, its expression should not affect the answers of the students, according to the Southern Weekend publication.

But the conclusion itself is flawed "scientifically." Being unclear is certainly a flaw for a test topic. It may confuse those writing the exam and affect their answers.

This ambiguity compromises the validity of the expert conclusion.

In this condition, an independently organized evaluation should be made to judge right from wrong.

More importantly, an efficient rectification mechanism should be established to promptly make up for the possible repercussions for the students who wrote the exam.

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