Today more than 125,000 high school graduates in Beijing are taking a two-day exam marking what they call their most crucial life turning point - the national college entrance exam. And with the scorching 36 degrees Celsius, some wonder if these tests should be moved to another month.
Students leave the examination room of Shaoxing Middle School of East China's Zhejiang Province after the first exam of the 2007 college entrance examination June 7, 2007. [photobase.cn]
And students in Beijing aren't the only ones suffering in the heat. Weather forecasts said most parts of the country would be over 30 degree. The north, southeast coastal area and Xinjiang are almost burning at over 35 degrees.
The exam takers are suffering the effects of global warming. Heat puts more pressure on the heart to supply more blood to the brain, causing adverse physiological or psychological problems. These students can't afford to get these kinds of illnesses after a decade of hard work at school.
Commonly known as "gaokao" in Chinese, the annual national post secondary entrance examinations used to be held in July and last for three days. In 2003 it was cut one-day shorter and moved up to June following complaints about the sweltering weather. Some students, parents and teachers dubbed the exam period as "black July." (Heise Qiyue).
But moving the exam schedule earlier hasn't helped the students as June has become just as hot as July. Statistics from the Beijing Meteorological Bureau indicated that in the past four years, the highest temperatures have been over 30 degrees in June, except for 2005. And the soaring temperature of over 36 degrees has reached the breaking point for some students psychologically.
Should "gaokao" be adjusted according to the weather?
The Beijing News reported that some experts suggested the exam should be rescheduled to May to avoid the summer hot weather or even organize the exams in April next year to relieve the traffic burden before the Olympic Games.
China's Education Ministry, however, shook off the suggestion that the examination timetable for next year won't be changed, but did acknowledge that the schedule could change in the coming years, the paper said.
The ministry said while the exam may bring some inconvenience to the public, adjusting its time might lead to further troubles in re-organizing teaching schedules.
Furthermore, the suggestion to hold the exam during weekends was not welcomed in Western China, where they don't have the same traffic problems that many large Chinese cities are tackling with at the moment.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the restoration of "gaokao". Chinese universities were shut down from 1966 to 1976, due to the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. In the past three decades, 36 million students have been admitted into universities, colleges, and vocational and technical schools. This is a 56.86 percent increase in 2006, compared with 4.7 percent in 1977.