China's make-or-break exam

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2007, 12:00am


A record number of 10 million mainland students took the National College Entrance Examination at the end of last week.


How many years has the exam been running? Thirty years. It was abolished for 11 years during the Cultural Revolution.


Because, at the time, universities were seen as 'bourgeois hotbeds of nurturing elitism'. Deng Xiaoping restored the system.


In 1977 - that year 5.7 million candidates, aged 13 to 37, vied for 270,000 places. At that time the admission rate was 4.7 per cent, by last year it had increased to 57 per cent.


Who takes the exam? Millions of students who have toiled through 12 years of compulsory schooling. Particularly for those from the countryside, the exam represents their only hope of turning their lives around.


Where will all the graduates go? They will work in China and, in the words of the Education Minister Zhou Ji , 'help boost the country's human capital'. But the exam is not without its critics, who say that it encourages rote learning and discourages creativity and originality.