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September 25, 2017

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Chinese tackle high pressure exams

Millions of students across China picked up their pens on Thursday to start national university entrance exams amid concerns about sweltering temperatures and high-tech cheating.

A record 10 million high school students are sitting the National College Entrance Exam, commonly known in China as "gaokao", for up to four days, vying for about half that number of university places.

Scrapped in 1966 as part of Mao Zedong's war on attack on "exploiting classes" in the educational system, the exams have been credited as the backbone of China's blistering reform-era growth since being reinstated in 1977.

They have also been criticized for rewarding rote learning, causing logistical chaos in Chinese cities and placing too much stress on students already pressured by parents fretting for their future in China's ultra competitive society.

In traffic clogged Beijing, home to many of the countries top universities, roads near exam venues have been closed to ensure students arrive on time and nearby hotels have been booked out by parents, many of whom will sweat outside in temperatures tipped to exceed 36 degrees.

Air traffic controllers in Anhui province ordered a plane bound for Huangshan city to divert elsewhere on Thursday afternoon, due to parents' concerns for their children's concentration during an English language comprehension test.

The nation's papers on Thursday printed impassioned editorials urging students to resist the urge to cheat.

"Those who have cheated their way into universities have robbed others of the opportunity to compete fairly for the opportunity of higher education," a commentary in Thursday's China Daily said.

Authorities in northeast Liaoning province spent 100 million yuan (US$13.10 million) fitting over 8,000 exam halls with metal detectors and cameras to prevent tech-savvy students from cheating on national university entrance tests.

"Mobile phones, electronic dictionaries, walkie-talkies and pinhole cameras have raised the attention of educational authorities. This year has even seen the manufacture of cheating shoes," the People's Daily said.

Police had found some 42 pairs, selling for about 2000 yuan each, in a flat in Shenyang, the provincial capital, the paper said, adding that they — along with "cheating wallets" and hats — had proven popular.

Exam supervisors had also been charged with ensuring that no devices, whether concealed in wrist watches or underwear, would escape the dragnet, the paper said.

Some media reported nutritionists prescribing exam-friendly diets and and parents scrambling to find attention deficit disorder drugs to give their children an edge.

In Sichuan, some candidates even visited a hospital to get a session of breathing pure oxygen in the hope of enhancing their concentration.

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