BEIJING, June 7 (Xinhuanet) -- The college entrance exam is known as the most pressure packed test in the world. The exam is a make or break moment for youth across the country. CCTV takes a look at the lives of the most promising students in one of the most competitive regions for test takers.
The gao kao; A marathon examination taken by millions. For the successful it offers a road to a bright future. A Chinese rite of passage, and every step counts. The number taking the test is falling. But for those who do, the competition is as fierce as ever. Expectations are high. Only a fraction will make it to the top universities in the country. The result of the two-day test could define their fate in a fast changing world. They will face their fears and some will conquer them. With the support of a nation, the future rests on the shoulders of a generation coming of age; The Chinese college entrance exam.
It's five-thirty in the morning in Kaifeng Senior Middle School in Henan province. Students have already worked up a physical and mental sweat. And Mr Jiao is as anxious as his pupils. The gao kao is coming.
Jiao Yujiang, a teacher, said, “Students wake up at 5 o'clock every day. I join them for running on the playground. They have classes in the morning and in the afternoon with a break at noon. Then the self-study class in the evening lasts until 10:30 pm.”
Routine rules in the boarding school. Students spend every waking moment in preparation. More than 9 million students like these across China will take the college entrance exam this year. Henan has the highest number in any province. For the first time in its history, its university acceptance rate is higher than the national average. It is expected that 75 per cent of final year students will enter university.
One of them is 18-year-old Sun Jin, a promising student in Mr Jiao’s class. She dreams of entering/attending university in a big city.
Sun Jin, final year student, said, “They have expectations for me. My parents want me to go to Shanghai. Because I come from the countryside, they want me to broaden my horizons and have a better view of the world and my life.”
Jiao said, “They can all be high achievers. They study really hard. But a few days ago, two girls who did not perform well in their exams came to me in tears. Their parents are too far away to comfort them. I stayed up with them talking till 11 pm. I tried to help them to release pressure.”
Pressure does not affect every student in the same way. Sun Jin is an excellent test taker. With a cool head on her shoulders, she is expected to score well.
Sun said, “There are actually many students in my class that are more capable than me. But when taking exams, they don't have confidence. They get nervous and take the exam too seriously. So they don't score as high as me.”
Your parents expect you to be your best.
Sun Jin’s resolve comes from her modest background. Her family support her study in every way possible. She wants to repay them with success.
“My family background is not the best. So I want to do well in the exam the first time I take it. Then I will be able to go to a good university and get a good job in the future so I can help my family,” said Sun.
For students like Sun Jin, the gao kao is a clear cut way to excel. The exam is key to social mobility. But educational professionals say that students in smaller cities like Kaifeng are at a disadvantage. They have to score higher than students in cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
Critics question whether the gao kao is a fair way of testing a student’s ability. They also question whether the intense exam prepares students for the life ahead. But the Chinese belief in studying hard is deep rooted.
A generation ago Mr Song, the current deputy head master, sat the gao kao at the school where he now works.
Song said, “Sometimes I still dream about the college entrance exam. It has left a mark in my life. The experience will have a huge impact on their development. ”
But for some, the idea of failing could become a nightmare. This is Tian Ye, a nervous but capable student expected to score high. His nervous smile says it all. He feels that he under performed in his mock exam. But hopes to make up for it in the real one.
Tian said, “The motivation comes from parents and the classmates. Everyone else is studying hard. You can’t give up because of nervousness or difficulties. I am nervous because I am afraid I won’t do well in the exam. Some of my classmates don’t have these concerns.”
Zhang Ruijuan is a therapist at the school. She says that attitudes towards stress and study are changing.
Zhang said, “If pressure is handled properly, it can be a good thing. Pressure itself is a driving force. But if it becomes so great that it becomes a problem for the students, it will impact their studies and be a burden. Then it's a bad thing. It depends on the students’ ability to handle and understand that. And how we will help them.”
Night is falling in Kaifeng and Sun Jin and her classmates are still studying.
I want to go to university.
A Chinese saying compares the gao kao to a stampede of a thousand soldiers and 10,000 horses crossing a single log bridge. In today’s China, there may be more routes along the river to success, but for those who will take the gao kao here in this corner of Henan, they hope the gao kao will provide a bridge to a better future.