By Luo Wangshu
Exam chiefs in Southwest China's Sichuan province have been accused of discriminating against rural students by including references to Apple Inc and micro-blogging in this year's national college exam.
The tech giant, one of the United States' most famous brands, was mentioned in a question about the effect of corporations on modern society, while a reference to micro blogs was made in a question about politics.
Some educators and Web users reacted angrily, saying such city-centric references are hard for youngsters from poor countryside areas taking the national college entrance exam, or gaokao.
"It's unfair to students from rural areas who have never seen an iPhone or iPad," Li Yi, a professor at Beihang University in Beijing, wrote on Saturday on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese social networking site. "If the (people who set the questions for the) gaokao need to be more creative, why not involve (a question about) breeding pigs and sheep?"
The message was forwarded 3,800 times and has so far received more than 900 comments, with the majority backing Li.
Provincial education authorities set the gaokao questions for students in their jurisdiction.
Last year, almost 70 percent of examinees in Sichuan were from rural areas, according to a Xinhua News Agency report that cited data from the province's educational exam authority.
A spokesperson for the authority was unavailable for comment on Monday.
However, many people involved in education have defended the references to Apple and micro blogs in the gaokao.
"The inequality in education is the root of so many discussions about the national college entrance exam," said Xue Xiaolei, a professor at Chongqing Normal University.
"But I disagree that these references (in the Sichuan paper) were unfair.
"These questions are about evaluating the students' analytical ability ... and their skills in observing the world and society", Xue said.
Peng Bin, a former student from Guizhou province, one of the poorest areas of China, agreed.
"You can still answer the question, even if you don't know anything about the iPhone or iPad," she said.
"If they ask a question about France in the exam, it doesn't mean I should have visited there beforehand."