Documentary: Senior Year

The annual two day National College Entrance Examination (高考) is the ultimate competitive exam for nearly all high school graduates in China. This exam is almost always required for college admission. In 2007, more than 9.5 million Chinese students took this exam. According to Xinhua:

The exam is regarded as one of the most important events for the participants, and could change their lives in a fiercely competitive society.

The examination will last for two days for students in 26 provincial areas, and three or four days in Shanghai, Shandong, Guangdong, Hainan and Jiangsu.

The Ministry of said earlier that a record 10.1 million people had applied to take the exam, and 5.67 million would be able to enter college.

It is not only a fight for the candidates, but also an impact on their families and the whole society.

The following film was made by independent documentary filmmaker Zhou Hao (周浩), and focuses on the life of students in an ordinary high school in the last year before the national exam, in a small county in Fujian Province. This film won the best documentary award at The 30th Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2006.

Study Hard! Move Ahead! Be Patriotic! These slogans are drilled into the minds of Chinese boarding school students as they prepare for their college entrance exams. Since most of these teens come from impoverished rural areas, their tuition is paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of their peasant parents, most of whom never made it past junior high, so the pressure to succeed is stifling. To keep up their marks the students must study from dawn until dusk, waking up before the sun to memorize everything from math formulas to propagandist passages. Their desks are piled high with books from every subject and teachers roam between rows to keep these exhausted and diligent kids on task. We glimpse this hectic world through the eyes of a select group of senior students who try to assert their personalities and live out a few teenaged whims like shopping and dating in a strictly controlled environment that doesn’t bolster personal space and freedom. As the battle for success rages on, this intense film provides a harrowing portrait of the new direction of Chinese education, one that aims to mass produce focused, result-oriented over-achievers.

April 26, 2008, 10:29 PM
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