As with most examinations of Tsinghua University-caliber students, things are going swimmingly as they pass their swim tests required for graduation with an extraordinarily high success rate.
Last month’s Tsinghua University swim test saw a passing rate of 91.5 percent. 407 out of 445 Tsinghua students were able to successfully swim 50 meters using any swimming style – the described conditions for the test.
The new rule only affects the freshman class of 2017. Students can take the test any time during their study at Tsinghua.
Announced last spring, the new requirement has only added to Tsinghua University’s reputation as the country’s top school, only accepting applicants that have managed to score the highest marks on the gaokao, China’s university entrance examination.
However, a peek behind the numbers shows that the sky-high passing rate may be misleading. Even as 54 students failed to show up for the test, the bigger revelation is a university survey in which a third of incoming Tsinghua University students admitted that they can’t swim.
Tsinghua accepted 3,700 new freshmen students this year.
With the obligation to deny graduation to a swim test-failing student still years away, the school said the new rule has not caused any problems.
Tsinghua University director of physical education Liu Bo encouraged students who can’t swim to take one of the thousands of swim lessons provided by the school in facilities described as “excellent” and “modern” by China Daily.
Liu argued that the new requirement was made for the benefit of students, claiming that swimming is an “essential skill” that “will provide help in the future.”
“When a person falls into water, knowing how to swim directly determines whether or not they can provide assistance,” said Liu.
Liu also said that the new rule isn’t even the first of its kind, saying that Tsinghua had instituted a swim test back in 1927. At that time, students wishing to study in the USA were required to swim 20 yards.
However, Liu also admitted that the swim test was eventually scrapped due to undisclosed reasons.
In a culture where examinations are routinely difficult to differentiate the highest-level students from the rest, the new Tsinghua rule has made other Chinese schools proud of their strict requirements. One Hangzhou university has boasted that their students have had to pass a swim test since 2006.
With Chinese society so competitive and obsessed with accreditation, the new Tsinghua rule has been the target of satirization. The most popular (and recurring) online comment is to sarcastically admit to “not choosing to apply for Tsinghua because of the swim requirement.”
All the same, getting into Tsinghua is a lifelong dream for others. Tourists queue up for hours to enter campus grounds just to take on-site photos of their elementary school-aged children dressed up in graduation robes. For others, undoubtedly already drowning a jam-packed schedule of elite after-school and weekend extracurricular classes and tutoring sessions, it just might inspire them to take some swim lessons, too.
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