While the students took their exams, parents were streaming into the vermillion gates of the temples, to burn incense and pray for good scores. (One friend told me today about a fellow mother who is so crazed that she has been visiting Catholic churches as well, just for good measure.) The city itself even got into the spirit, ordering drivers to avoid honking, which might disturb students, and, in some places, closing down Internet cafes in the days before, to encourage studying.
Over lunch, I asked Wang Hao—a gaokao veteran and sharp young journalist who has helped me on many stories—why China maintains a system that puts so much pressure on a single test, instead of factoring in essays, recommendations, and other measures. “My parents’ generation, which went through the Cultural Revolution, will tell you that the test is the only way to keep it fair,” he said. “Otherwise, all of the good schools would be filled entirely by people with connections.” It’s a good point, and, if anyone wonders whether corruption is really a risk in China’s education system, Chinese papers this week have been full of news of foiled cheaters, including the crime rings in Fujian province that were selling a product line that included “wireless earphones, signal emitters, scanner-imbedded pens and watches.”
Read more about the college entrance exams via CDT.