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13M Chinese students take 'gaokao' exams

BEIJING — The number of students taking this year's multi-subject «gaokao» series is seen as a record high, with the Ministry of Education saying that 13.42 million candidates have registered for the high-stakes tests.

«People say that this is the start of a life,» 50-year-old mother Zhi Haihong told AFP. «So, one cannot slack off.»

Zhi put on a traditional «qipao» dress to bring her daughter to the examination site in central Beijing, in the hopes that its auspicious bright-red color would offer good luck.

EXAM TIME A student hugs a teacher on the first day of the national college entrance examination, known as ‘gaokao,’ in Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province, on June 7, 2024. AFP photo

China's gaokao drills high school students on various subjects, including Chinese, English, mathematics, science and humanities, the results of which are critical for gaining admission to university.

High-level education has expanded rapidly in China during recent decades, as an economic boom pushed up living standards — as well as parents' expectations for their children's careers.

The job market that fresh graduates now enter is no longer as rosy as it once was, as the world's second-largest economy struggles to achieve a post-pandemic recovery, with high youth unemployment representing a significant concern.


«I think this is a necessary process of growing up,» said Zhi when asked if she thought young people face great pressure to pursue their studies.

"(The gaokao) is also a method for the country to select talented people," she said.

«Only after undergoing pressure can one's mental tolerance increase. Then you will be able to withstand these pressures in the future when working in society.

Praise from space


A list of top trending topics on social media site Weibo on Friday morning was studded with exam-related discussions, with many users sharing pictures of uniform-clad students exchanging high-fives and hugging their parents before entering testing centers.

The official Weibo account of China's Chang'e-6 lunar probe — which began carrying samples back to Earth from the far side of the Moon on Tuesday — also chimed in.

»Every one of you that is