Nearly 9.8 million Chinese high school students took the National College Entrance Exam, called gaokao, on June 7 and 8.
The emphasis on a two-day test has sparked criticism from some educators because of the incredible amount of pressure it places on students leading up to just one test. Gaokao has also been linked to China's rising suicide rate because of mounted pressure and poor test results.
Hengshui High School, the highest achieving secondary school in gaokao over the last 14 years, has these as its two mottos: “Life is not a rehearsal, because you won’t have the chance to live it all over again,” and “If you haven’t died from hard work, just work harder." At Hengshui, students study from 5:30 a.m. to 9:50 p.m., cannot have cell phones and are allowed just one day of vacation every month. Cameras are placed in each classroom to monitor students for laziness. These types of tactics are increasingly common at what many are calling gaokao-sweatshops — schools that exclusively prepare students for gaokao.
“I usually spent three to five minutes eating dinner,” a former student of Hengshui told China Daily.
Needless to say, the stakes are insanely high.
The Ministry of Education reported that students are competing for 6.5 million vacancies in universities across the country, according to Xinhua News agency. Currently the test is divided into three main areas: Chinese, math, and English, though there are other more specialized tests, too. The country's education ministry recently announced plans to reduce emphasis on English and instead bolster Chinese in the near future.
The pictures (via Reuters) are dazzling.
REUTERS/China DailyStudents taking an English exam in an exam hall at Dongguan University. English is one of three main areas of testing, along with math and Chinese.
REUTERS/China DailyArt students draw sketches in Jianan, Shandong province.
REUTERS/China DailyA mother waits outside in Hefei, Anhui province. In some parts of the country, authorities banned outdoor square dancing (a popular activity for elderly Chinese people) within 500 feet of testing buildings because of the loud music.
REUTERS/StringerStudents taking the bus to their exam in Liu'an, Anhui province. Thousands of family and friends crowded the streets in support as they left for the test.
Zheng Dong (left) studies in a hotel room in Shanghai near the site of his exam. In Beijing, over 1,700 taxi drivers offered to give free rides to students in town for the test.
REUTERS/Carlos BarriaInvigilators monitor examinees in Suining, Sichuan in case of any sudden cheating. Leading up to gaokao, some high schools place security cameras in classrooms to monitor students in case of laziness.
REUTERS/StringerA student takes a quick study break. Some schools have been criticized for producing "robots" who study 15 hours per day for gaokao.
REUTERS/StringerStudents self-studying at night in Hefel, Anhui province. 9.8 million students took gaokao this year, in comparison with 1.8 million students who take the SAT.
REUTERS/StringerParents in Huaibei, Anhui wait for their children to finish the exam.
REUTERS/StringerLeading up to the exam, students and teachers take part in pressure-release activities, like this trust-fall.
REUTERS/StringerStudents walk by Confucius after a rainy morning in Wuhan. Many temples were flooded in the weeks leading up to the test with parents praying to Confucius, China's great educator.
REUTERS/Darley WongA security check in Shenyang, Lioning province. Authorities vowed to crack down on cheating during the exams this year.
REUTERS/StringerA hidden camera inside a pen (second from the left) and a receiver disguised as an eraser confiscated by police.
REUTERS/StringerGlasses containing a hidden camera and a coin with a tiny receiver.
REUTERS/StringerA more complex cheating contraption in Chengdu, Sichuan provence.
REUTERS/StringerConfiscated cell phones and receivers. The Ministry of Education said students caught cheating would be stripped of enrollment qualifications for 1-3 years.
REUTERS/StringerA morale-boosting exercise in Hengshui, Hebei province. Students waved flags and shouted "Come on Hengshui No. 2 high school, you are the best!"
REUTERS/StringerPolice tried to contain students as they lined up to register for the exam.
REUTERS/China DailyParents in Shanghai waited for the exams to finish.
REUTERS/Aly SongApplicants walking outside after finishing their first day of testing.
REUTERS/Darley WongA teacher checking examinees names in Hefel. Because of the importance of one test, "gaokao-sweatshops" — high schools that prepare students exclusively for the test — have become increasingly common.
REUTERS/Jianan YuThese students took oxygen while studying chemistry at a hospital in Suining.
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