Special Class for the Gifted Young

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The Special Class for the Gifted Young is a program aimed to select gifted young students to enter the universities. First established in 1978 at the University of Science and Technology of China, it was a major innovation in China's higher education. The idea was suggested by renowned scientists such as Tsung-Dao Lee, C. N. Yang, and Samuel C. C. Ting, and supported by the then Vice-premier of the State Council Fang Yi. The objective of the class is to explore the most efficient ways to nurture promising youth.[1] Peking University, Tsinghua University, Nanjing University, Wuhan University, Jilin University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology also launched similar programs. But they were all shut down for all kinds of reasons. For now, only the University of Science and Technology of China and Xi'an Jiaotong University still have this program.

In the University of Science and Technology of China[edit]

By October 2006, the Special Class for the Gifted Young of the University of Science and Technology of China has enrolled a total of 1134 exceptionally gifted youth, 942 of whom have already graduated.

With the success of the class, a new class was established and adjoined to the original class in 1985, namely "The Experimental Class of Teaching Reform", more popularly known as the Double Zero Class, which is conducted under the same guiding spirit as the Special Class for the Gifted Young. This class has now become an integral part of the program. In 2008, the Special Class for the Gifted Young combined with the Experimental Class of Teaching Reform and the Experimental Class of Innovation became the School of the Gifted Young. The three classes now select students in different ways, while the admitted students receive the same training from the school.

The Special Class for the Gifted Young upholds the guiding principle of "selecting talents despite their age and cater to their individual potentials." The curriculum aims to strengthen the foundation courses and an all-round education in the first two years, and in the later years allow students to enjoy wide latitude in developing their potentials and interest. Students are encouraged to attend seminar courses, sign up for the various "student research projects," and participate in their professors' research projects. This kind of real research environment not only provides valuable opportunities for them to apply what they have learned in the classroom and give their initiative and creativity full play, but also enhances the spirit of teamwork and cultivates personal integrity.

The past two decades has proven the success of the program. Its students have won numerous prizes in such international and national contests. 80 percent of its graduates have been enrolled in postgraduate programs at home or abroad, one third of whom have already obtained doctoral degrees. It's graduates now spread all over the world. Among them are the 31-year-old and 34-year-old full professors at Harvard University, the 40-year-old US National Academy of Sciences member, the 31-year-old IEEE fellow and the president of Baidu, the discoverer of the smallest possible carbon nanotube, winners of the U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, TR35 innovators selected by MIT Technology Review and so on.

Special Class for the Gifted Young[edit]

The Special Class for the Gifted Young is the traditional and original program of its kind with strict age limit. For instance, to enroll in 2016, a student must have a birthdate after January 1, 2000. Prospective students must first pass the National College Entrance Examination in China, and then the final test arranged by USTC, which mainly focuses on the student's ability in mathematics and physics. Approximately 40 to 50 students are admitted every year to the class.

Some Notable Alumni in Academia[edit]

Experimental Class of Innovation[edit]

The Experimental Class of Innovation was established in 2008, with relatively weak age limit. For instance, to enroll in 2016, a student must have a birthdate after January 1, 1999.

Experimental Class of Teaching Reform[edit]

More popularly known as the Double Zero Class (Chinese: 零零班), the Experimental Class of Teaching Reform selects students with regular process, so there is no age limit. It admits the best among the students already admitted by the university. Students in USTC have another chance to be admitted to this class, if they perform extremely well in the university's examination for all newly admitted students.

In Xi'an Jiaotong University[edit]

In 1985, Xi'an Jiaotong University established a special class for gifted youth called Youth Class of Xi'an Jiaotong University (Chinese: 西安交大少年班, also translated as Special Class for the Gifted Young of Xi'an Jiaotong University, a name usually confused with the equivalent in the USTC). The class aims to select talents and explore ways to nurture promising youth without the widely criticized[12] Gaokao and other standardized tests.[13][14] Every January, XJTU holds tests and interviews for thousands of 9th grade applicants from all over mainland China and admits about 140 students.[15] Youth Class students first study high school courses in High School Affiliated to Xi'an Jiaotong University, Suzhou High School-SIP, or Tianjin Nankai High School. After passing final exams of high school courses, students can directly become undergraduates of XJTU without taking Gaokao.[14] After passing final exams of undergraduate courses, students can directly enter the master's degree programs at XJTU without taking the Postgraduate Admission Test. Alumni of Youth Class include Zhou Hongyi, co-founder of Chinese antivirus software company Qihoo, Xi Chen, a Presidential Scholar and associate professor at Columbia University,[16] and Haitao Zheng, a 2005 TR35 innovator selected by MIT Technology Review.[13][17]

In Jilin University[edit]

The Jilin University Gifted Young (吉大少年班) program began in 1985 and continued into late 90's, enrolling 10 to 20 each year. In the first few years, the students shared dorm rooms and were given special care for their well being in contrast with the adult students who weren't. The students had a few majors to choose from on their entry. In 1985 and 1987, some chose Physics, some chose Mathematics and the rest chose Computer Science. In 1988, all 21 students were in Computer Software. There were no enrollments in 1986. From 1989 to the end of the program, instead of living together, the newly enrolled students settled down with their adult classmates and barely received the special care as their seniors did.

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