National competitions for primary and secondary students put under scrutiny
The Ministry of Education has asked organizers of national
competitions for primary and secondary students to double-check the
authenticity and originality of past prize winners after a third-place
finish by a sixth-grader at a national science competition for research
on colorectal cancers caused public outcry after it was determined the
boy's project was the result of heavy involvement from his father.
National competitions should not far exceed students' cognitive
abilities, and parents and others should not participate in the
competitions on behalf of the contestants, the ministry said in a notice
The ministry will continue to strictly scrutinize national
competitions, and organizers that are found to be seriously violating
regulations will be removed from competition white lists and not be
allowed to host competitions again, it said.
Further, competition results are not allowed to be used to decide
student admission to primary and middle schools, nor should any entry
tests be given to such students. Rather, admission should be solely
based on the proximity of their homes to the schools, the notice said.
High schools should also not use the results of competitions as bonus points to count toward student admission, it said.
On July 1, the ministry published a white list featuring 35 approved
national contests for primary and secondary school students for this
year and next year.
The move aims to eliminate unregulated and exam-oriented competitions that have placed extra academic pressure on students.
A Grade 6 student surnamed Chen from Kunming, Yunnan province, was at
the center of a recent controversy after his research paper won him
third prize in the China Adolescents Science and Technology Innovation
Contest. That same paper had netted him first prize at the
provincial-level innovation contest in Yunnan.
The student claims he made use of gene-editing, animal models and
clinical sample analysis to find a mutant gene, C10orf67, and analyzed
its role in colorectal cancers. He claimed that just three days after he
looked up the definition of "gene" on the internet, he was researching
An investigation by the organizing committee of the Yunnan
competition found that "the research report has far exceeded the
cognitive ability and writing skills of the student, and it is
impossible for the student to have written the report by himself".
The committee decided to revoke Chen's first-prize award on
Wednesday, and its counterpart from the national competition revoked his
third-prize award on Thursday.
The student's father, Chen Yongbin, a researcher at the Kunming
Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, issued a
statement on news website ScienceNet.cn on Wednesday saying that he had
not fully understood the requirements of the competition, which
stipulated that "the project report should be written by students
themselves", and that he was heavily involved in the writing of the
He said his son chose the research subject himself, and did the
experiments and obtained research data under the guidance of
schoolteachers as well as him and his wife.