9.42 million college hopefuls sit for China’s gaokao exam

World Today

Candidates walk out of an exam site at No. 14 High School in Hohhot, capital of north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, June 7, 2015. The two-day exams began on Sunday, with 9.42 million people sitting for the exams this year. Thirteen provincial-level regions will also arrange exams for additional subjects on June 9. (Xinhua/Lian Zhen)

A total of 9.42 million Chinese high school students started taking “Gaokao”, the annual national college admission exam on Sunday. The test will run for two or three days depending on the region.

The test is often called a “battle to determine fate” as its results decide whether a student goes to college, back to school for another year, or tries to find a job.

“As a student who has been learning in the U.S. for three years, when trying to recall my “Gaokao time”, the most important thing gaokao taught to me was the authentic experience of overcoming and achieving. The qualities I learned: such as perseverance, careful reflection, optimism, and self-confidence still have a huge impact on me,” —Shuwen Bian

Because the stakes are high, cheating is a recurring problem.

On Sunday, just two hours after the test began, media reports alleged that there was a surrogate exam-taker in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province.

The provincial education department immediately investigated and apprehended the suspect in a high school exam room with police in attendance, less than half an hour before the first test ended.

The suspect admitted to being a stand in. The Ministry of Education, said it had asked the public security ministry to oversee the investigation, adding that cheating in Gaokao could amount to a punishable crime in serious cases.

Law enforcers have already seized 23 suspects in a special campaign to crack down on the sale of wireless devices used for cheating, as well as sale of self-proclaimed key to exam questions and the practice of using substitute exam sitters, according to the education ministry.

More than 80 education officials, teachers, invigilators, students and even parents received punishments ranging from warnings to dismissals in Hubei Province in central China after last year’s “Gaokao.”

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Though the scams will never disappear, “Gaokao” has become a fairer game since last year with new rules, the biggest changes since the exam was reintroduced in 1977.

The fresh measures include discarding “extra” scores awarded for sporting or artistic achievement, such as playing a musical instrument.

The plan also tips the scales more toward underprivileged groups by expanding enrollment quotas for students from less developed central and western parts of the country, helping those from poorer provinces get into top universities.

Yan Jiliang, an 18-year-old candidate from a village in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, said he believed new rules had leveled the playing field, which he saw as an opportunity to control his own fate.

Measures are also aiding physically challenged candidates. Guangdong education authority printed papers with a larger font for six candidates who have visual impairments. They, plus eight who have difficulty in writing due to cerebral palsy, were permitted to extend their test time in accordance with a new regulation which allows more help for disadvantaged groups. Candidates with auditory disabilities were allowed to bring hearing aids and sign language interpreters were assigned for those in need.

“My boy grew more confident when he heard about the policy,” said Xu Mingguo, whose son has cerebral palsy and took the test in a separate room. “Now he plans to become a finance expert.”

Story by Xinhua