The pressures of China’s national college entrance exam can have some tragic consequences: three gaokao takers have committed suicide in separate incidents in Hubei and Jiangsu provinces this week, repeating a disturbing pattern that happens nearly every year during China’s most rigorous academic test.
A male student in Guangshui, Hubei Province, jumped to his death from the top of a 12-story hospital building on Monday. A female student committed suicide in Hubei’s Ezhou city, although her cause of death has yet to be released. Hubei police officials have said investigations into the two cases were underway, but further details would be released after the gaokao ends so as not to disturb any test-takers.
In Zhenjiang City, Jiangsu Province, a 21-year-old high school senior hanged himself with a computer network line four hours before Monday’s exam. The student had a history of mental problems, reported the Nanjing-based Modern Express newspaper.
Similar reports of students buckling under the pressure of the gaokao are reported almost every year.
Offered just once a year, the gaokao is the only college-entrance exam accepted by Chinese universities, and scores essentially determine a student’s future prospects and career. As the Chinese job market gets increasingly more competitive, a university degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee a decent job these days, but Chinese families continue to place an enormous value upon education and collective belief holds that getting into a good university is at least the first step in securing a brighter future.
Needless to say, it’s a lot of pressure to put on an 18-year-old.
Every year during the gaokao, in cities around the country, traffic is stopped, sirens and honking are banned, noisy construction sites are stifled, and parents and grandparents book out nearby hotel rooms and restaurants for exhausted exam-takers. A recent survey conducted by Sina.com and MyCOS revealed that 75% of Chinese high school seniors felt under “great pressure” beginning from the period leading up to the exam, and more than 60% of parents also felt stressed out.
With everything else in China changing at the speed of light, maybe it’s time China took a closer look at the somewhat antiquated ritual of the gaokao (now in its 33rd year) and made some changes?