From CRI, via Xinhua:
On May 24 1977, the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping delivered a speech entitled "Respect Knowledge: Respect Talents", indicating the possible re-introduction of the national college entrance exam that had been stopped a decade ago.
Later that winter, when more than 5 million candidates aged between 15 and 36 took the exam, it seemed as though spring had come at last.
Looking back on the event, one cannot say too many in praise of the move.
The 'gaokao', or national college entrance exam of 1977 not only restored an examination system, but also social equality and justice. This was a major turning point for millions of people born in the 1950s, those who took the exam went on to became a mainstay of the nation. [Full Text]
See also 36 mln students admitted into college in 3 decades by People's Daily Online.