Chinese gaokao pushed back one month amid epidemic: MOE

By Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/31 15:00:44

Students in Huizhou, South China's Guangdong Province try to cheer up their peers who are going to take the gaokao. Photo: VCG

China's education authorities announced on Tuesday that the country's national college entrance examinations, also known as gaokao, will be postponed for a month to July 7 to 8, while the timetable for the gaokao in Beijing and Hubei Province, the region most severely hit by the coronavirus outbreak, will be determined according to the local epidemic prevention and control situation. 

A total of 10,71 million students will sit the 2020 gaokao which will be postponed for a month, Wang Hui, an official with the Ministry of Education said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Wang stressed that the reason of the postponement is to put students and relevant personnel's health as top priority, and to ensure fairness of the examination by reducing the epidemic impact on the students, especially those in the countryside and poverty-stricken areas.

Since 2003, the gaokao has normally been held on June 7 and 8, and was only postponed once in 2008 when candidates in regions hit by the Wenchuan Earthquake had an extra month to prepare, Xiong Bingqi, a deputy director of the Shanghai-based 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

This year's adjustment of the gaokao schedule also marked the first time the gaokao was postponed nationwide, Xiong said, which is based on the epidemic prevention and control situation, and the impact of the postponed start of school. 

The gaokao, widely considered one of the most important exams for the future of millions of young people in the country, has been held every year from June 7 to 8 since 2003.  The country resumed gaokao in 1977 after a 10-year hiatus during the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-76). It was held every year in July from 1979 to 2002. After the education ministry decided to move the gaokao to June from 2003, the exam had taken place as scheduled every year, even during the SARS outbreak in 2003 when the epidemic was contained in June.

The latest decision responds to the earlier concerns of exam candidates and their parents, Xiong said, as delaying the gaokao would allow students to have a more complete final-year study experience, something that cannot be replaced by attending online courses at home.

With the epidemic waning in China, many students in the final year of senior and junior high school returned to school on Monday, with some graduates-to-be having been home-schooled amid strict epidemic control measures since February.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, as of Monday, 10 provincial regions in the Chinese mainland, including Southwest China's Guizhou Province and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, have started new semesters for gaokao candidates. Nine other regions including Central China's Hunan and South China's Hainan provinces announced the school starting dates for their gaokao students to be April 7, while Northeast China's Liaoning Province is eyeing the middle of April for the region's students.

However, Beijing, Central China's Hubei Province and Shanghai have yet to make a clear announcement on the matter.

Although China has claimed a phased victory in its national battle against COVID-19, the growing rampant pandemic situation worldwide has increased the risk of imports of infection cases. This is especially the case in Beijing, the country's political and cultural hub which has a large migrant population from both home and abroad, so the singling out of Beijing in the Tuesday announcement makes sense in terms of its students' safety, observers said.

Also, it is necessary to take the measures to ensure fairness for the Hubei-based candidates, as they were most seriously affected by the epidemic, and some are still in the process of recovering from the epidemic, they said.

Xiong also predicted that as college admission work normally begins in August, the gaokao postponement would not greatly impact the process. 

An online discussion under the hashtag #gaokao annouce postponement had gathered more than 550 million views and 270,000 comments as of press time.

Many commented that they are witnessing history. 

A gaokao candidate from Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, wrote on Sina Weibo, "I am going to use the extra time to get ideal scores in gaokao."

Another netizen from Luoyang, Henan, left a comment under a post by Tsinghua University over the adjustment, saying, " See you in 98 days."

We are trying to direct students and parents to look at the bright side of the delay, as they will have another month to prepare, said senior high school teachers approached by the Global Times on Tuesday 

A student's mother from Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, said she is glad to have another month, as she is not quite sure how well her son has focused on the online course in the past month. But she is also worried about the worse summer heat in July than in June.

A student about to take the gaokao in Beijing surnamed Tan told the Global Times on Tuesday that he hopes Beijing also delays the exam.

"Now I am taking online courses, but I want to go back to an actual classroom to review what I have learned for as long as possible," Tan said.

Wang Qi also contributed to the story

Newspaper headline: Gaokao pushed back one month amid epidemic


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