For one, the national
college entrance exam-- commonly known as "gaokao" in Chinese -- was a
great opportunity to grasp. And if she didn't, it was not something to mope
An unidentified teacher (R)
encourages her students before they begin to take the national college
entrance exam in Beijing June 7, 2007. More than 10 million are taking
exams this year, and about 5.67 million will be enrolled in
For the other, it was an exercise in character-building - it gave him the
strength to take a challenge head-on and on his own.
Both did pass the exam and enrolled in universities - but that was 30 years
ago, when the admission tests resumed after more than a decade's gap because of
the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).
Today, they are
bemused at the stress students, parents - and indeed, the whole society - are
Tian Ying, 61 and a senior editor in a leading news organization, recalls her
feelings in 1977: "Eleven years had passed since the country held its last
college entrance exam. If I succeeded, it was good; if I didn't, it wasn't bad.
I would gone back to the job I had."
She was among the 220,000 lucky ones of a staggering backlog of 5.7 million
"If my child were to do the exam, I would pretend not to know of the test at
all, just let it be," she told China Daily.
For Wang Jinzhan, now a national model teacher in a Beijing middle school,
the exam helped him become self-reliant. The 16-year-old rode a bike for more
than 10 hours, traversing several mountains, and reached the venue a day before
the exam in a small town of Shandong Province.
"The exam was a baptism of fire, which taught me how to face difficulties
totally on my own," Wang said on his blog.
Three decades on, almost all the 10 million students appearing
in the two-day exam beginning today have a strong support cast: Parents,
teachers, counselors. And the odd doctor or "nurse".
Tales are legion of parents taking leave for days before the exam and camping
in hotels near exam venues, adding to the stress students are already under.
They don't hesitate to cough up 10,000 yuan ($1,300) for tonics which are
supposed to boost brain power and the immune system.
Some families even hire "nurses" to look after test-taking progeny. Xiao
Ling, a sophomore at Hainan Normal University and also an experienced home tutor
and a good cook, became a "nurse" last month in Haikou of South China's Hainan
The family paid her 2,000 yuan ($260) a month, roughly four times they would
pay a domestic helper, asking her to help their 17-year-old son review his
studies, chat with him to ease his pressure and to make nutritious meals.
A record 10.1 million people are expected to sit the exam this year - an
increase of 6 percent from last year - but only 5.67 million will be able to
(China Daily 06/07/2007 page1)