Gaokao Season ends in China

June is the month when potential university or college students fail or pass the entrance exams in China. Preparing for and taking the exams is said to be extremely stressful – and it is costly, with entire families acting as investors in a hopeful young career. Three separate deaths of people taking the exams were reported on Monday. At least two of them apparently killed themselves. It probably doesn’t exactly help the candidates when three stakeholding generations of their families are waiting outside, brimming with high expectations.

Happy survivors blew their stack in Shenzhen’s Happy Valley (欢乐谷), Nanshan District, on Thursday this week, defying the rain.

China Daily on Monday:

In the examination process, more than 9.57 million Chinese students will compete against each other for 6.57 million places at the country’s universities or colleges, according to the Ministry of Education.

With enrollments at 68.7 percent, a 7 percent increase on last year, and a 650,000 drop in the number of students registering to take the entrance exam, the students have a greater opportunity of success than in past years.

But why the drop?

In another article, China Daily cites the decreasing birth rate and the rising popularity of overseas studies as combined factors that drag the number of candidates for this year’s make-or-break college entrance exam below 10 million – for the first time since 2007.

There may be yet another factor. Does it pay to study? Huang Yasheng (黄亚生) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) broached the issue last year.

In an interview with the BBC’s Chinese service on February 11, [2009], Huang pointed out that every additional percent in GDP added less to employment and family incomes in China. He is one of those who argue in favor of adjustments, rather than blind growth. And in an interview with Nanfang Daily (published online on February 15), he asks why the Chinese economy is unable to create more white-collar jobs, points out that China is still a low-technology country with little administrative efficiency, and comes back to the question of investment and growth. India’s investment only amounts to 50% of China’s, he says, but still creates still economic growth that amounts to 80% of China’s economic growth.

Zhang Jingxiu, an education consultant, also suggests that “if college education does not guarantee a decent job and a better life, it is no surprise to see the fading interest”. Chinese parents are said to have

become more accepting of their children not pursuing college education because of rising employment pressure.
“The cost of supporting a college students is high, particular for families in rural areas,” Wang Tongxun, the vice-director of Chinese Talents Society, said.

Then again, studying has probably been the best way to find a well-paid job, even during the rather critical past decade. And if the number of students in China keeps going down for a while (without the economy doing likewise), their chances to land reasonably good jobs after graduation may actually rise accordingly.

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