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 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 for the Gifted Young.

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 24-year-old assistant professor, the 34-year-old professor at Harvard University, the 40-year-old US National Academy of Sciences member, the 31-year-old IEEE fellow and the vice president of Microsoft, the discoverer of the smallest possible carbon nanotube, the winner of the U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the founders of Netbig.com, the president of the9.com and so on.

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[2] Gaokao and other standardized tests.[3][4] Every January, XJTU holds tests and interviews for thousands of 9th grade applicants from all over mainland China and admits about 140 students.[5] 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.[4] 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,[6] and Haitao Zheng, a 2005 TR35 innovator selected by MIT Technology Review.[3][7]

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