Gao Kao, Or the Art of School Stress in China

Written by Admin,   on Sep 7, 2020

Finally summer arrived and students can relax for a while before starting the new year at school. May and June are the hardest and most stressful months of the year for Chinese students. Yes, we are talking about the Gao Kao (“Higher Test”), a prerequisite for entrance into almost all universities in China. It is the most frightening final exam in the Chinese education system as it determines student’s future.

Chinese Stressed-out Students

During the whole school year, students are under huge amounts of pressure from their parents and teachers to do well, to be the best. The final year of high school, especially, is often focused intensely on preparation for the Gao Kao, and it isn’t unheard of for parents to go so far as quitting their own jobs to help their children study during this year. Some students re-do the whole year if they don’t get into the university they want. And, the worst news reported by the Chinese government is that the academic pressure brought about by the examination-based education system leads many students to commit suicide every year.

Parents as Stressed as Students

As the parents are investing a lot on their kids, the whole family is involved in students’ success. This year, officials in different provinces of China had to manage not just students but also anxious parents. Some schools set up care stations for parents as they waited outside examination halls, setting out seats under large umbrellas and providing water. Stations in Beijing were equipped with emergency medical supplies in case parents had sunstroke.

Cheating Controls

Every year police set up road blocks around schools to ensure exam rooms are silent while students take their test.To prevent students smuggling smartphones into exam rooms, schools have installed CCTV and metal detectors. Beijing school officials banned students from bringing in smart watches and tracked the delivery of examination scripts to schools by GPS to ensure the questions were not leaked beforehand.
Officials in Henan province went as far as deploying a drone carrying a radio scanner to catch cheats.
Police also busted a cheating syndicate in Hubei and Jiangxi provinces where people were paid to pose as students and take the exam on their behalf.

Go international, Lessen the Stress

The students who are concerned they aren’t going to get a good enough Gao Kao score to get into a top 10 Chinese or Asian university choose other options. They choose less prestigious courses or to study overseas. In this way they avoid all the Gao Kao stress and gain an international experience and a bigger world view. The main countries of interest when choosing to study abroad are USA and England.

Study Stress Ends Up in Confetti

In response to the pressure, students have been known to tear up textbooks while waiting between exams and throwing them off school buildings in a form of protest. After some of their photos went viral on Chinese digital platforms, Xiamen local officials have banned high school students from using littering as a form of stress relief. Serious till the end.



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