China's national college entrance exam postponed by a month
China's national college entrance exam, also known as Gaokao, will be postponed by one month to July 7 and 8 due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic, the Ministry of Education said Tuesday.
Hubei Province, which was hit hard by the virus, and Beijing can put forward their proposals on the exam dates for their regions and publish the schedule after consulting and gaining approval from the MOE, according to an MOE statement.
The MOE made the decision in consideration of the safety of examinees and related personnel, said Wang Hui, an official with the MOE, at a press conference in Beijing.
Presently, the country has basically blocked the domestic transmission of the virus. However, the risks of sporadic cases and regional outbreaks still exist, said Wang, adding that China is faced with mounting pressure of guarding against imported cases as the pandemic is spreading rapidly overseas.
"Postponing the exam by a month will lower the risks," Wang said.
He also said the postponement would ensure fairness for all examinees given that the outbreak had a bigger impact on students from rural areas.
Since the epidemic broke out, authorities ordered schools to extend winter breaks and asked students to study from home via online course platforms.
The gap in online study conditions between urban and rural areas put rural students at a disadvantage, Wang said, noting that an extra month will allow better preparation for the exam.
Around 10.71 million applicants will sit for this year's exam, according to the MOE.
The MOE would guide local efforts in ensuring the safety of examinees, requiring local authorities to beef up epidemic prevention and control in all links of the exam organization, Wang said.
A circular issued by the MOE on Tuesday emphasized conducting health monitoring and COVID-19 screening for examinees and staff, and required efforts to disinfect examination venues and make sure they are well ventilated.
In light of the potential hot weather and natural disasters in some regions during the exam, local authorities were asked to work out response plans and conduct emergency drills, Wang noted.
Wang said the dates for college applications and enrollment would also be postponed by around one month, with the enrollment of undergraduate programs projected to end in late August and the enrollment of junior college programs in mid-September.
Universities are projected to begin their fall semester from early to mid-September and higher vocational colleges in early October, he added.
On-site examinations for art majors will be held after the Gaokao, according to the circular.