More than 9 million Chinese students take gaokao on Wednesday

Candidates of the national college entrance exam queue up to board a special train to go to exam site in Alihe Township from Dayangshu Township of Oroqen Autonomous Banner, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, June 5, 2017. Over 600 students took the special train to attend this year's national college entrance examination, known as the Gaokao, due to kick off on June 7.Photo: Xinhua

Around 9.4 million students are taking the country’s largest exam starting on Wednesday, which will last two to three days.
 
The college entrance exam, also known as gaokao in Chinese, has been regarded as a “life changer” for hundreds of millions of Chinese people in the past four decades.
 
Around 120 million Chinese students enrolled in university from 1977 to 2016, according to Xinhua News Agency.
 
Restored in 1977 right after the Cultural Revolution and at the eve of the reform and opening-up policy, the exam system helped to produce 900,000 university students in the first three years, who later became the backbone of the country’s ongoing economic reform.
 
"This group of people was a key driving force in reform and opening-up," Xinhua quoted Liu Haifeng, head of the school of education at Xiamen University in east China's Fujian Province, as saying. “Despite its weak points such as the heavy burden on students, gaokao is a test that fits China's overall conditions and is a fair start for all.”

“It is still a fair exam system today as there is a standard in it,” said Yu Minhong, founder and president of New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc, who failed the exam in 1978 and 1979, and was admitted by Peking University in 1980.
 
Reform

 
While gaokao is arguably a fair platform for young generations in China to seek a promising future, it has also been criticized for its over-emphasis on grades and students being obliged to choose between science and liberal arts at an early stage.
 
In this regard, the country is trying to overhaul the college entrance exam and enrollment system by 2020 in an effort to “improve fairness and transparency” as well as relieve the burden of the students.
 
In East China’s Shanghai and Zejiang province, pilot reforms are underway.
 
Students from the two provinces will take only three tests in Chinese, mathematics and English, while in previous years they had to take four tests which also included a so-called “minor comprehensive test”. The “minor comprehensive test” involves three courses that students chose from the six courses - politics, history, physics, chemistry, geography and biology-roughly one or two year before gaokao.
 
While the “minor comprehensive test” was also held together with the other three major tests on the two-day gaokao in June previously, this year it was finished by April in the two provinces.
 
As part of the reform, students can take the exam on minor subjects twice, and the higher score will be counted for their overall gaokao grade. The exam is held twice a year, in April and October.
 
Nationwide attention
 
Every year, gaokao captures nationwide attention in China.
 
During exam hours on Wednesday and Thursday, the Beijing Bus Group orders buses along 14 routes not to stop at stations near the exam venues, and adds 200 vehicles to cater to the transport needs of students and their parents, according to Xinhua.
 
Meanwhile, Beijing Subway also set up a "green channel" allowing students with admission cards for the exam to undergo security checks more quickly. Railway stations near the exam venues will provide supplies such as erasers, pens and rulers for students.
 
In other local cities, Emergency Medical Rescue Centers also allocate doctors, nurses and ambulances to exam venues during the test.
 
On China’s largest online community, Sina Weibo, the hashtag of “Gaokao, fighting” garnered more than three million comments.
 
Weibo accounts of some Chinese mainstream media also post live streams from local gaokao sites. Videos show that police patrolling and parents and teachers waiting for their children.
 
“No matter what the result is, we should always explore our possibilities,” a student who is to take the exam said on Weibo.


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