Gaokao Opening Doors

2020-09-08 00:24:13 China Pictorial 2020年8期

by China Pictorial

This years gaokao, Chinas national college entrance examination, was postponed one month due to the COVID-19 epidemic before finally commencing on July 7.

The gaokao remains the most important examination for college enrollment of talent from across the country and continues to tug at the heartstrings of millions of families in China. When the gaokao approaches, construction sites across the country quiet down. During the test (usually two or three days), transportation is restricted around test sites and examinees are given free bus travel and even taxi fares. In case of emergency, examinees can even get police escorts. All social activities stand aside for the gaokao.

“This test is about far more than educational departments,”said Yang Xuewei, former director at National Education Examinations Authority。“Chinas gaokao is more than an exam but a huge social project。 In the face of the challenge of unequal social resources and economic development levels across the vast land of the country, any system design must consider students from millions of households with vastly different family backgrounds and allow them fair examination。”

In 1977, China resumed the gaokao which had been interrupted by the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976). About 5.7 million candidates took part in the exam that year, and the number reached 10.71 million in 2020. The gaokao empowered considerable swaths of Chinas talent and changed the destinies of many people, by slingshotting students out of rural areas and into bustling cities. Many have since escaped poverty and seized prosperity. Thanks to the gaokao, upward movement on the social ladder became possible in China. Although children from affluent families in big cities have more options than what is offered by the gaokao, the national college entrance examination remains the greatest hope for tens of thousands of high-school graduates from ordinary families. So, college candidates continue to take the plunge year after year.

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