Pressure from China's College Entrance Exam Leads to Suicide

By Lin Ping, Sound of Hope
June 17, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: June 17, 2006 12:00 am

China's annual National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) started on June 7 this year. Millions of students walked into exam rooms determined to get a place in college. However, some students lost their chance forever — the huge pressure of the NCEE drove them to suicide.

According to the Xian Online website, a senior student at a Changsha City high school in Hunan Province committed suicide due to the pressure of preparing for the NCEE. On June 5, the student went for a walk. One of his relatives was worried about him and followed him on a motorcycle. As they got close to the Changsha Railway Station, the student jumped in front of a speeding freight train. He was killed instantly.

Another senior student in Mingguang City, Anhui Province committed suicide by jumping off a building. According to the Jinling Evening News, the student's grades were pretty good. However, he was so worried about the exam that he had difficulty sleeping. He also started having difficulty doing sample test questions. He wrote a few words in a letter to his parents, “Dad and Mom, I am sorry. You have given me so much, but now I'm losing my memory. I can't attend a college and pay you back.”

William Lan, a professor in the College of Educational at Texas Tech University, believes that China's NCEE system causes students' psychological pressure.

Lan said, “Because of China's educational system, 'one exam can determine a student's fate.' I don't understand why China can't follow the American way, where students have more than one chance. In the United States, in order to attend colleges, students need to take the SAT and ATT. These two tests are offered through testing companies in the United States, rather than the government. If you don't do well on the test the first time, you can pay US$35 and take it again. This eases the mental pressure of not doing well the first time.”

According to the overseas Chinese media DW news , an eighth grade student in Wenzhou City, Zhejiang Province, arrived at the testing room early to take a final semester test. Her classroom teacher stopped her at the door because she hadn't tied her hair according to the school rules. The teacher asked her to tie her hair up and return. When the girl came back, she was told that the test had started and she was not allowed to enter the testing room. The girl was in tears when she talked to her mother on the telephone. She then committed suicide by jumping in a river near the school. The girl's parents are currently blaming the school and the teacher.

Lan believes that more attention should be given to China's students' psychological problems. He said, “I feel that some Chinese students can't bear frustrations. We can't wholly blame them. They truly have shouldered too much expectation from parents and elders. Their ability to endure psychological pressure is quite low. The exam that she [eight grade student who committed suicide] couldn't take was her semester final exam and actually was not a very important exam, but the tragedy occurred. I think it is mainly because she didn't know how to relieve her resentment and chose a very extreme way.” Lan continued, “There is an urgent need for professionals in psychological counseling in China's schools.”

According to statistics from China's Ministry of Education, about 9.5 million students applied to take the NCEE. Seventy percent of the applicants (6.67 million) were this year's high school graduates. There are about 2.6 million places in Chinese universities.