More than 20 students at a senior high school in Central China's Hubei Province put themselves on intravenous (IV) drips to deliver extra nutrients in the classroom while preparing for the fiercely competitive national college entrance examination, or gaokao, that will take place in a month.
A senior student from a third-grade class of the province's Xiaogan No. 1 High School, using the alias CHImushroom, posted four pictures on her Weibo account showing a classroom filled with IV bottles hanging from the ceiling late Friday night.
The pictures of the classroom, which resembled a hospital ward, were reposted around 10,000 times over the weekend.
According to a Weibo poll, 82 percent of netizens were against this practice, saying it was unnecessary even though the exam date was approaching, while slightly over 9 percent of them supported it because the students did it of their own free will.
In an interview with local media in Xiaogan city, a teacher from the school surnamed Xia said the pictured students were receiving amino acid drips that would help increase their body strength.
"Some students were not feeling well these days due to the bad weather. As the exam is approaching, more students are coming for the IV drip at the clinic than its capacity can hold," the teacher said.
"It is for this reason that the school has decided to let students have drips in the classroom."
Many netizens have expressed their sympathy for the high exam pressure these students face. However, for some students, taking IV drips for extra energy is no big deal.
"It's like this every year before the exam. Students voluntarily ask for the drips. I have done it before," a Weibo user said.
Education experts said the exam and the intense competition for university places it represents leave students both mentally and physically exhausted.
Students may not need to use the IV drips but they are willing to give it a try when they see their classmates are doing so, Yang Dongping, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, an NGO that researches educational policy, told the Global Times.
"It is useless to talk about whether it is effective to have IV drips for energy supplement at the moment. The case shows the competition for entering a prestigious college is extremely harsh for these students," Yang said.
The exam is the prerequisite for entry to almost all higher education institutions in China. Provinces such as Henan, Shandong and Hubei, where there are relatively fewer high-level educational resources and more candidates, see the toughest competition.