University to grade student personalities, award certificates

09:13, November 23, 2009

When Qian Xuesen, the father of China's aeronautical engineering program, asked the question "why China's schools can't foster brilliant talents" to Premier Wen Jiabao in 2005, it was left to echo in the halls of China's educational institutions unanswered.

And as university students still continue to trudge through the Chinese education system's same swamp of endless tests, exams, certificates and evaluations, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), one of the country's most prestigious institutions and Qian's alma mater, is now attempting an answer with a new variation on an old theme issuing "personality certificates" to its students upon graduation.

By conducting yearly peer and student evaluations based on behavior, values and interpersonal relationships, certificates will be issued with the intention of helping students "know themselves, improve their personality and provide employers' a quick overall view of a student," according to the director of information office surnamed Liu of SJTU's public relations department.

The announcement of the program last month immediately sparked heated debate among students, experts and educators as to the certificate's value, usefulness and credibility.

"It's unnecessary to shape all students to the same mould," said Chen Daguo, a second-year grad student at the university.

HR experts also point out that employers review an applicant's personality through interview, political screening and background checks.

"The certificate is meaningless because it can't cover all aspects of an individual's personality. A student's grade in ethics class and school activities are not representative of a person," Chen Ning, an HR expert in, the recruiting portal in China.

Educators also offer scathing assessments of the program.

"This certificate is just another kind of exam for students to pass," said Chai Chunqing, the vice president of 21st Century Education Research Institute.

"The campus is a relatively isolated environment. A real test of personality is taken during key moments of one's life," he said.

In spite of various controversial voices and no real standards in measuring personality, school officials at SJTU insist in exploring the plan.

"The hot debate is good for exploring the issue. And as to whether it can solve Qian's question, it all depends on trying it out," Liu said.

Source: Global Times