Thursday, June 7, 2007

Word of the Day: Gaokao

Today and tomorrow 10.1 million high school graduates across the country are taking gaokao, or the national college entrance exams. Gao means "high" and kao is "exam" or "test".

Coincidentally this year marks the 30th anniversary of the resumption of gaokao after the Cultural Revolution ended in 1977.

Meanwhile, students and their parents have been preparing for this moment for months... or maybe even years. There are reports of anxious mothers and fathers taking time off work to camp out in hotel rooms near the exam sites which probably stresses the students out more than supports them. Some parents even spend lots of money on 'tonics' to help their teen learn more, or hire a 'nurse' to help their son or daughter study and make nutritious meals for them.

And the reason for all this fuss? There are only 5.67 million spots for post secondary education, in university, college and vocational training schools.

So even if you pass the exams, that may not be enough to guarantee you a seat. You have a 56 per cent chance. I can't even imagine what those who didn't get a post secondary education are doing now.

But while the Chinese covet high education, recent university graduates are wondering how far their degrees will get them as they are now all scrambling to find a job. There's even stiff competition to become a massage assistant at 2,000 RMB (US$261) a month.

While there is enough cheap labour to go around, there aren't enough jobs for educated people.

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