A teacher cheers students before they sit the national college entrance exam in Hengshui, North China's Hebei province, June 7, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]
A student sits the national college entrance exam in Korla, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, June 7, 2012.This year 9.15 million students will sit the national college entrance exam, or gaokao, on Thursday and Friday, with an expected average admission rate of 75 percent, the Ministry of Education said. [Photo/Xinhua]
Parents and family members watch students walking into a center for the national college entrance exam in Taiyuan, North China's Shanxi province, June 7, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]
BEIJING, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Sitting in the sun beside the gate of the Experimental High School attached to Beijing Normal University, a man surnamed Zhao was talking to his wife about lunch plans for their daughter, who is taking the national college entrance exam at the school.
In order to better take care of their daughter, Zhao and his wife took three days off and decided to accompany their daughter to the annual exam, the largest of its kind in the country.
The exam, which falls on June 7 and 8 every year, is regarded as a "make or break" test for most students, as it is the primary factor affecting the course of their post-primary education.
At the school gate, more than a hundred parents were waiting just like Zhao, sweating and fanning themselves, as the early June sun was bearing down hard.
Zhang Chunli, who works at a scientific research institute, also took some time off to accompany her son to the exam. She waited outside, nervously checking her watch.
"My son has decent grades but he still felt nervous. He had some trouble sleeping last night," Zhao said.
"My son has been feeling a lot of pressure, especially during the last year of preparations for the exam," Zhang said, adding that she hopes to take her son on a vacation after the exam is over.
A police car and motorcycle were parked at the school's gate to prevent emergencies from disturbing testers. Staff from the police station, located across the street from the school, provided scores of seats with beach umbrellas to parents waiting for their children.
Paper cups, drinking water and medicine to prevent sunstroke were also provided by the police to the waiting parents.
Businessowners have jumped at the chance to take advantage of the exam. Travel agencies and tennis clubs distributed advertisements to waiting parents, hoping to secure their business after the exam concludes.
Just 200 meters away from the university, police officers were seen distributing flyers to parents waiting for their children outside of the No. 35 Middle School, reminding them to be aware of traffic controls on the way to testing sites.
The Beijing municipal government bans noisy construction work from June 1 to 26 every year to ensure a quiet environment for the testers. Construction projects located within 500 meters of testing areas are brought to a halt.
Registration rates for the exam have dropped for four consecutive years due to an increase in birth rates and a growing trend of studying abroad. According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, about 9.15 million people applied to take the test this year, a 2-percent fall year on year.
The average university placement rate for students who take the test stands at 75 percent this year, a rise of nearly 3 percent over last year.
However, the pressure that the students have been feeling has not been relieved correspondingly.
"We and our daughter cannot relax in such an atmosphere," Zhao said. "She is often laden with anxiety, even when she is playing."
Afterschool classes and other forms of extracurricular education have also weighed heavily on many students.
Many parents believe that entering college is their children's only way to success, which puts even more pressure on students, according to Professor Cheng Fangping from Beijing's Renmin University.
When the first day of testing at Beijing Normal University ended at 11:30 a.m. and students came out from the classrooms, their parents wasted no time in crowding together at the gate, eager to find their children and ask about the test.
Wang Wei, a student whose parents did not come to wait for him, left the school on his bicycle, a relaxed smile on his face.
"I feel quite at ease, and I think I did well on the test," Wang said. "I hope I will do better during tomorrow's testing."