History of Psychological Assessment: Chinese Use of Essay Examinations for Civil Service Selection John H. Ackerson Psych/525 October 10, 2011 Kecia Scott History of Psychological Assessment: Chinese Use of Essay Examinations for Civil Service Selection The early Chinese process (650 to 1905) for selecting civil servants or public officials provided the model used by most contemporary societies. The process included the employment of assessment tools or tests that centered upon merit instead of family or political associations.
This innovative manner of providing jobs to the masses by way of assessment played a fundamental role in both the social and intellectual lives of the majority of Chinese citizens. These premodern civil service assessments, believed by many to be to be an obstruction to the development of a progressive Chinese state, instead had a positive influence on the manifestation of China as a modern country.
Civil service examinations in early China were based on classical education and found to be as suitable for selecting those considered to be elite by way of service to the state of China as those chosen by the budding independent countries of early modern Europe; furthermore, “classical assessments were an efficient educational, political, and social construct that met the needs of the prominent families” (Keju, 2007, para 31) as well as the bureaucracy while concurrently sustaining the late imperial social structure (Keju, 2007). Civil Service Examinations in Ancient China
Although a large amount of data from the feudal age and the first empire is vague with regard to assessment tools, much of that information can be acquired by way of data produced by the Sung Dynasty (960 CE-1127 CE). The descriptions of the second empire with regard to examinations provided by the feudal age and the first empire disclose sufficient insights into the subject matter of these complete examinations to gain an understanding of the earlier assessment tools. Because the essential intention of the examinations was to promote only the finest individuals into the offices of overnment, many of the examinations remained unaltered, even though these assessment tools increased with regard to complexities and intricacies. In addition, despite the period, a number of commonalities existed within these tests. These commonalities included the tests made available to all men, with no age restrictions, and the tests were based on questions concerning the writings of Confucius, memory, a grasp of poetry, and one’s capacity to write intellectually on political and moral issues.
Examinations were given in both written and oral form and consisted of a comprehensive understanding of the five Classics and the Four Books. Scholarly articles, papers, or books were developed as study guides for those interested in taking the examinations. Finally, during the Sung Dynasty, the contents of the examinations were solidified and remained unchanged until 1905 (DiCicco, 2003). Chinese Civil Service Assessment Reform “The Legacy of traditional civil service examinations [is] mixed.
Merit testing is imbedded in Chinese tradition, and there is still an aura of respect around scholars” (Aufrecht, & Li Siu, 1995, para. 18); however, “acknowledging the necessity to establish the fairness and consequential validity of [a] candidate’s performance assessment when they are used to make high-stakes decisions” (Denner, Norman, & Lin, 2009, para. 1) have raised a number of concerns with regard to Chinese civil service reform and the consequential basis of validity and the unintentional and intentional social consequences of assessment.
History has provided evidence that unintended consequences can have far-reaching influences and the influences of Chinese civil service reform can have unintentional and intentional social consequences (Jones, Jones, & Hargrove, 2003). A number of theorists have taken distinct positions with regard to this issue. For example, D. E. Wiley asserts that the consequences of assessment should not be taken into account with regard to validity.
In contrast, Lee Cronbach, a pioneer in education and known for research in three categories: instruction, measurement theory, and program evaluation asserts that social consequences alone may affect validity by casting doubt on the manner in which an assessment is utilized (News release, 2001). Many more theories and beliefs exist that distinguish between facts relevant to validity and facts that can influence informed decisions concerning social policy (Suen, & Vu, 2006). Conclusion
Evidence of the far-reaching effects of the use of essay examinations for civil service selection in China can be found dating from the seventh century to contemporary times. The education of this nation is the result of and “maintained by the state-orchestrated system of high stakes and extremely competitive exam[ination]s” (Yu, & Suen, 2005, introduction). The motivating force behind this historical model was the Keju examination system; the purpose was to choose high officials that would be capable of serving the Emperor (Yu, & Suen, 2005). The Legacy of traditional civil service exams is mixed (Aufrecht, & Li Siu, 1995, para. 18);” however, the importance of acknowledging this legacy requires an understanding of the fairness and consequential validity of this ground-breaking form of what was to become known as democracy. Although history does not recognize the Chinese use of essay examinations for civil service selection as one of the milestones with regard to the conception of the democracy, its social consequences, both unintentional and intentional have paved the way for contemporary societies to flourish by way of academic excellence.
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