Chinese officials fired for English exam mistake

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Several senior officials with the education and examination management authorities in Zhejiang province were punished on Wednesday after the weighting of scores in the college entrance examination's English test sparked widespread discontent and challenges from examinees and teachers.

Chen Guangsheng, deputy secretary-general of Zhejiang's provincial government, told a news conference that Guo Huawei, Party secretary and head of the provincial Education Department, and Wang Yuqing, Party secretary of the Zhejiang Education Examinations Authority, had both been removed from their posts.

The provincial discipline inspection commission also launched an investigation of Wang and Chen Yujun, the chief of the examinations authority's discipline inspection commission, for violations of Party disciplines.

Sun Heng, head of the examinations authority, was admonished by the provincial commission.

On Nov 24, when the scores for the college entrance exam were announced, some students and their parents cast doubts on the scores, saying they failed to reflect examinees' actual performance.

Three days later, the provincial examinations authority replied, saying the "level of difficulty" for "part of the test questions of this year's English exam" had been higher than in previous years. Therefore, in order to ensure the difficulty of various exams "remain roughly at the same level", the scores for Section 2 (reading comprehension) and Section 3(linguistic performance) were given extra weighting. However, the answer failed to satisfy students and teachers.

On Saturday, the provincial government announced the formation of an investigative team to look into the issue. It was headed by Zhejiang Governor Yuan Jiajun and included professional educators and experts.

According to the investigation, the score weighting policy was "a serious mistake without sufficient basis for decision-making", which had led to "unjustified and irrational" scores.

"The scoring rules should be made before the formal marking of the test papers, and the Zhejiang Education Examinations Authority adopted the weighted scoring for the English test without adequate discussion," said Chen Guangsheng, also a member of the investigative team.

He said the weighted scores will be cancelled, and the original scores reinstated.

Starting from noon on Thursday, the 260,000 examinees in Zhejiang can log on to to check their original scores.

They can also file applications to the authorities to ask for their scores to be reviewed.

In a letter of apology, the Education Department and examinations authority said the weighting of the scores had "damaged the credibility and authority of the college entrance exams".

"We will draw a lesson from our mistakes and spare no efforts to ensure the fairness, safety and justification of the exam," the letter said.