Tuesday, June 08, 2010

High stakes

As in many countries, China has a special exam to determine which kids are headed for university. The kids are about fifteen and in the first year of high school when they go through the grueling two days of testing which largely determine their future. The exam and attendant procedures are standardized nation wide. I'm told it's a difficult test The sixty per cent who pass pursue a pre-university curriculum; the rest leave school and go to the work force, where they perform such exciting jobs as sweeping the streets with bamboo brooms, or working in factories and restaurants, twelve hours a day, seven days a week the rest of their working lives. A few who fail are sent to technical school.

In the event of failure, there's second a chance to retake the exam the following year, but if the young person fails again, that's it. In this competitive atmosphere, many people try to cheat, so the kids are wanded and frisked before entering the test site. There is special equipment to detect cell phone signals sent into exam rooms, in the event that students have managed to bring in their cell phones and are using them to cheat. This is a nation of one child families, and the pressure is particularly acute. When children fail the exam, families who can afford it sometimes bribe the officials to place kids in the university track.

Above: students line up to take the Guo Kao or university exam.
Below: other scenes from the examination. Note that even in an atheist
nation, there is such a thing as School Prayer.

1 comment:

quig said...

Personally, I think we should do a better job of differentiating between those who should go to College and those who should follow a different track..... We let anyone in "University" and then they cheat to get out.... doesn't seem like the systems are that different.. Oh, yeah, we have more kids per family......

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