A vocational school student stuns China by defeating his university rivals in a mathematics competition

A 17-year-old vocational school student from the countryside China He became a social media celebrity after reaching the final round of a mathematics competition, beating many others from top universities and raising questions about… Educational system.

Jiang Ping, who is studying fashion design, came in 12th place in the Alibaba Global Maths Competition, one of 802 people who made it to the final round – an eight-hour test taking place on Saturday.

A video clip that included an interview with Jiang received more than 800,000 likes and 90,000 comments after it was published on social media by Damo Academy, the competition’s organizer. Most of them expressed their surprise, while some wondered if it was real.

Jiang says in the video interview that she doesn’t think she deserves to join the competition, although she enjoys working in advanced mathematics because it “brings out my desire to explore.”

Congratulations poured in. People visited her parents’ home in a village in Jiangsu province on China’s east coast, bringing alcohol and money to show support. Her photos were displayed on the walls of shopping malls in her hometown, Lianshui. Zhejiang University and Jiangsu University praised her on their Weibo accounts.

Although it was not clear how Jiang ended up in the vocational school, her story still reminds some in China of the incident. Inequality between rural and urban areas How this can make it difficult for even talented students to climb the economic ladder.

“While Jiang Ping is celebrated publicly, deep down many Chinese feel that her story highlights the desperation of Chinese education,” said Jiang Xueqin, an education researcher based in China. “The odds are fundamentally stacked against ordinary Chinese, who do not have power, wealth, or guanxi,” the Chinese term for communications.

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Inequality in education appears to have worsened in recent years. Education spending in rural areas was 17% lower than in cities in 2019 for China’s nine years of compulsory education, which does not include high school. It was only 2% lower in 2013, based on calculations drawn from data in a Peking University report on the urban-rural gap in per capita spending.

Ministry of Education data indicate that 70% of vocational school students in China are from rural areas. The researcher said that the high percentage indicates that the education system works like a caste system.

Jiang, a mathematician, is the only vocational school student among all the finalists. The others, most of whom are Chinese, come mainly from top-ranking universities such as Cambridge, MIT and Caltech, as well as Tsinghua and Peking Universities. Winners will be awarded $2,000 to $30,000 in prize money.

The contest was started six years ago by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant. Jack Ma, then CEO of Alibaba GroupThe goal is to find, encourage and support students who enjoy mathematics, he said.

The Communist Party secretary at her vocational school told state broadcaster CCTV that Jiang performed well enough on the entrance exam to go to high school.

The secretary said she applied to the vocational school instead of the high school because her older sister and close friends were students there. Other Chinese media said it was because she belonged to a poor family, and the vocational school gave her a scholarship.

Attempts to reach Jiang were unsuccessful. A call to her school went unanswered and Alibaba’s Damu Academy did not respond to an email.

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Jiang says in a video interview that her plan is to attend a good university. It is not impossible, although vocational school students can only access certain institutions.

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