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June, 30, 2016

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Chinese-language composition gains renewed attention

Scores on the Chinese composition section of the Basic Competency Test have become a key criterion for Taiwan's top senior high schools to recruit the brightest junior high school graduates.

More than 315,000 junior high graduates took this year's first Basic Competency Test, and those grades will be used for applying to enter senior high schools around the nation.

With this highly competitive test, the island's top high schools are using scores from Chinese-language composition to weed out a large number of students who received the same combined scores for all subjects.

The junior high school graduates must have total scores between 292 and 295 for six subjects (including Chinese composition) if they aspire to enter the Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, generally rated as the island's best high school for male students.

Those wishing to gain admission to the Taipei Municipal First Girls High School — the top high school for female students — should have combined scores between 291 to 294.

The minimum requirements for entry into other top-tier high schools in Taipei and other major metropolises range from 271 to 286.

But due to the limited slots available, the most prestigious high schools have set exceptionally high requirements for skills in Chinese-language composition.

Junior high graduates with less desirable performance in Chinese composition will not be able to enter these schools even if they get higher combined stores than other competitors.

More than 6,000 of the junior high graduates got a score of "0."

But teachers of the Chinese language said students' general standards of proficiency in Taiwan's national language showed significant improvement this year.

The government took Chinese composition out of the basic competence test in previous years in the name of educational reform and eradicating things related to China.

It was revived this year after loud outcry over a downward slide in students' mastery of the Chinese language, which is now rated as the world's second most important international language after English.

The teachers attributed the students' gradual recovery of Chinese-language capability to the change in government policy.

The new policy has become a major factor in generating significant business for supplementary schools, as a sharply increasing number of parents now send their children to cram schools to study Chinese composition.

Teachers at formal and cram schools all agreed that the Chinese language is still fundamentally important because students will not be able to even understand exam questions if they have poor reading comprehension and writing abilities.

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