Exam sites in Inner Mongolia save students from long trips
Zhao Zhongmei stood beside the gate of the Dayangshu No 2 Middle School in Orgon Autonomous Banner, in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and watched her son Ji Yu walk into the building where he will take the college entrance exam, or gaokao, on Tuesday morning, the first day of the annual test held across the nation.
For the first time in the past two decades, they became the first group of students in the town of Dayangshu who were able to take the exam "at their doorstep", since the gaokao test center was in the school itself.
Zhao's son and the 440 others taking the test are from various ethnic groups, including Han, Mongolian, Oroqen, Daur and Ewenki.
Inner Mongolia is a sparsely populated region, so gaokao test centers have been traditionally set in towns where the government of an autonomous banner is located.
For this reason, high school students from Dayangshu, where there are only 70,000 residents, have long had to go by train to the town of Alihe, 135 kilometers away, to take the exam, said Wang Ying, director of education and sports bureau of the Orgon Autonomous Banner.
The government of Dayangshu tried to make it convenient for the examinees by making the train to Alihe for "gaokao test-takers only", and riding on a train to take the exam was a special gaokao memory for many students. Still, a long train ride before the exam was thought of as tiring and could affect the performance of the students in the test.
Early this year, Dayangshu's application to set up a local test center was finally approved. An investment of 1.5 million yuan ($224,000) on buildings and equipment soon followed.
"Our teachers often used to go to Alihe together with our students to take care of and cheer for them. Now they can do the same thing at our school gate," said Cai Haibao, vice-principal of Dayangshu No 2 Middle School, adding that he's happy for the students.
The happiest group might be parents like Zhao.
Having seen over the years many of her friends sending their children to take gaokao in another town, Zhao said the opening of the test center spared the examinees and their parents a lot of trouble. In the past when students took the train, accompanying parents had to carry a lot of things.
"Some even brought drinking water from home, in case their children were unaccustomed to the water of another place," she said. "Also, parents had to book hotels in advance. Some even had to do that a year before the exam, because there would be no vacant rooms if they do it late."
Zhao said her son and the other students this year are really lucky. "Instead of traveling a long way to take the exam, they have more time to rest and relax, which can help them perform better in the exam."
"As a parent, I am lucky too. I don't need to ask for time off, make lots of preparations or travel to somewhere far from our home to accompany my son during the exam," she added.