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Record 13.4 million sit for gaokao nationwide

By ZHAO YIMENG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-06-08 07:13
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Students and teachers high-five each other outside a middle school in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, before the start of the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, on Friday. LIU DAWEI/XINHUA

China's annual college entrance examination, known as the gaokao, began on Friday with a record-breaking 13.42 million students taking the test nationwide.

The high-pressure exam has a direct bearing on the higher education trajectory and future career growth of students, as they need to score well in the gaokao to gain admission into the nation's top colleges.

While local authorities have ramped up efforts to ensure the smooth conduct of the prestigious examination, which runs through Monday, teachers and parents pulled out all the stops to boost the confidence of test-takers.

"Believe in yourself. You've got this!" Such last-minute words of encouragement from parents and teachers were overheard on a rainy Friday morning in Beijing's Xicheng district as anxious faces were spotted under umbrellas outside an exam venue.

Jin Xia, mother of a student at the Second High School Attached to Beijing Normal University, said she would wait in her car nearby till her daughter finished her test, which would continue for two and a half hours.

"I'm confident of my daughter's performance, so I just told her to relax and do her best. Whatever the result is, we can accept it," Jin said.

As it started raining at 7 am, Beijing's traffic management bureau activated a duty plan to ensure smooth traffic flow. Over 800 police officers on motorcycles were deployed around 105 test venues to ensure safety and order.

As of 9:30 am, the bureau had assisted with 44 requests from test-takers and their parents, including 11 emergencies such as vehicle breakdowns.

Special measures have been adopted nationwide for the convenience of examinees who lose or damage their identity cards, and urgently require a new ID, or a supporting document, to sit for the gaokao.

For example, Gansu province activated on June 1 a green channel for issuing exam admit cards. The green channel will stay open till June 20 to extend a similar privilege to students who will sit for other upcoming tests.

To counsel students during the exam period, Hubei province has established 107 reporting and consultation hotlines to address various concerns of test-takers, which include providing support for exam stress and anxiety.

Wang Changbin, father of an examinee in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, said the current gaokao grading system is more challenging compared to when he was a testtaker. "I don't have any preset expectations for my daughter's scores and mainly hope she can do her best," he said.

His daughter, Wang Ziyu, wants to major in law, language or applied mathematics, but has not yet decided which university she would like to study in. The family is considering universities established with foreign cooperation such as Duke Kunshan University in Jiangsu.

The current gaokao system offers multiple options, including Sinoforeign cooperative programs and vocational colleges, providing more higher education opportunities, the father added.

Chen Zhiwen, a member of the Chinese Society of Educational Development Strategy, said the number of test-takers is rising due to the changes in statistical criteria, with the increasing number of examinees from secondary vocational schools now being counted in the total number.

"Almost everyone can get into a college, either a vocational institution or a regular university," Chen said. "This year's 510,000 more examinees will not cause a significant problem with seats. Prestigious universities have expanded their undergraduate admission plans, so students and parents should not be too anxious about the rising competition."

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