China students get annual stress test

Fri, Jun 8, 2012, 01:00

IT PROBABLY won’t make people sitting their Junior or Leaving Certs feel much better but, if it is any consolation, the university entrance exams in China are an obsession that is frankly terrifying.

More than nine million people sit the exams, known as the gao kao and it seems like the whole country keeps a respectful distance – flights are rerouted and beeping car horns are banned near the exam halls.

About 280,000 police officers are put on security traffic detail during the exams. There are 106 roadblocks around the exam halls in Beijing alone.

China is a secular country but people need a bit of help around exam time and there are large crowds around the Buddhist temples. At Yaoshan in Henan province, authorities are allowing candidates to “hug the feet” of their 200-metre tall Buddha there for free during the examinations to bring good luck.

The candidates’ chances of getting into college are better than ever – the 9.15 million students are competing for 6.85 million places, and the numbers are falling: they are down 1.4 million since 2008.

The education ministry said this was because the graduation-age population has fallen and because more students want to study abroad. There is also a feeling that the safe job in the public sector – the “iron rice bowl” – which many students are hoping to achieve after graduation, is not the draw it used to be as the private sector becomes more alluring.

Every year at this time, teachers are on the lookout for increasingly inventive cheats. Earlier this week, police in Jiangxi province discovered a gang making exam-cheating kits, and detained 63 people.

One 83-year-old man took the exams for the 12th time this year, saying everyone needs their dream. “He needs a better dream,” one person quipped on the net. “Don’t take a place away from a young person.”