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China

China’s National College Entrance Exam Is A Family Affair

Worldcrunch
CAIXIN / CHINA DAILY (China)

BEIJING – As far as mass national mobilizations go, nothing can quite match the Spring Festival transportation rush around the Chinese New Year. But in China, another massive annual event is the "Gaokao," when millions of high school graduates take part in the National College Entrance Examination in 7300 test centers across China over three days.

This year, some 9.3 million teens – plus additional millions of accompanying family members – hit the road for the three-day exam that wrapped up this weekend.

Watching this rite of passage unfold is a window into life in contemporary China. The parade of families who accompany their children to the centers or even wait, often in simmering heat, outside of the testing centers for the three days - this is the snapshot of the Chinese family.

"We'll be here every day for three days although we don't let our grandson know so he is not stressed up," one grandparent told the China Daily.

"When I took my exam, not just my parents, but all my uncles and aunts were also there. When I walked out after each subject, there were at least five or six members of my family there…It was rather stressful," recalled Ma, a recent college graduate.

China's economic development, coupled with a return to the teachings of Confucianism that attaches great importance to education, means that just about every Chinese parent regards sending their child to university as a primary goal in life.

Due to China's one-child policy, the number of students registered for the entrance exam has in fact started to decline since 2009, a stunning diminution of one and a half million in just four years, making it a lot easier to get into university. This year the admission rate will be 75%, an unprecedented high, ten times the rate of 1980, according to Caixin media.

Nevertheless, the 4-2-1 family structure (grandparents – parents - only child) results in the phenomena of "one sits an exam, the whole family parades." Tea or coffee as well as vitamins are offered to boost up the candidates. Some parents even book their children into luxurious hotels for the last couple of days before the exam.

Relatives of examinees of College Entrance Examinations sit outside an exam center as they wait until the end of the exam. (Photo- SINA)

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