‘Small-town swot’ is no mocking matter – Opinion


Memes on “xiaozhen zuotijia”, or “small-town swot” – a term some have coined to describe those from rural areas who worked hard to get admission to a university – are back on Chinese social networking sites.

The term is nothing new and was once used by those from humble beginnings in a self-mocking way or by others who mocked them for lacking broader vision and social resources, but it is also proof of fairness in education and employment opportunities and class mobility.

Not long ago, netizens used to ridicule their rural counterparts by saying they can only solve questions on exam papers but lacked flexibility, even blaming them for working overtime. It led to those with humble beginnings feeling like misfits.

However, this clearly does not hold water any more. So many rural young people have got a better life after clearing gaokao, dubbed one of the most grueling exam in the world, which determines which universities its takers can attend on the basis of their scores, something that ultimately has a life-changing consequence on their lives. Thanks to higher education, many youngsters from humble beginnings got brighter job prospects and social mobility.

Since gaokao was reinstated in the late 1970s, it has proved to be the turning point in the lives of many of the country”s talents, who had to clear the exam. Later, their contributions formed the backbone of development in contemporary China.

It is no exaggeration to say that many small-town swots have participated and contributed to China’s development over the past four decades. They are the best example of how China’s talent selection system is open and meritocratic. Such vitality in social mobility should be encouraged rather than mocked at.

The author is a writer with China Daily.