Why schools should stop requiring teacher recommendations


Several weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend working as an education consultant in Beijing. During our conversation we discussed a recent article claiming 90% of teacher recommendations from China are falsified.

“There is no way 90 percent of teacher recommendations are falsified,” he said. “It’s more like 99 percent.”

Why is teacher recommendation falsification so rampant amongst Chinese applicants?

The answer lies with China’s heavy reliance on standardized testing. In China, admissibility is solely determined by standardized test results. Thus, when all students and schools are officially ranked, there is no need for teacher recommendations or other qualitative forms of assessment.

When US schools require teacher recommendations from Chinese students, applicants are put in an awkward position. Since many of their teachers have never written a teacher recommendation, nor have written one in English, they generally refuse when approached by students. In this situation, students are left with little choice other than to ask their consultant or a friend to write the recommendation for them.

In this sense, it is not the students driving falsification, but rather strict application requirements and a cultural divide. Instead of cracking down on verification, what if schools made a commitment to revise their international application requirements? If students no longer need to falsify materials to satisfy application requirements, perhaps it would have a ripple effect across the entire admissions process.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Chris Boehner

Chris Boehner is the Executive Director of Vericant and has lived in Beijing since 2006. When Chris is not interviewing students or speaking mandarin, you can find him playing mandolin.

Twitter LinkedIn Google+ 

Leave a Reply