BEIJING, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Zhu Lijuan has put her daughter's safety over academic performance to prepare her for sitting the national college entrance exam next week, as the whole semester had been overshadowed by the novel coronavirus epidemic.
"It has been a special year. This year's examinees in Beijing will be the first to try the reformed exam, which will be prolonged to four days. My daughter has neither been able to prepare for the exam in school nor in extracurricular tutoring classes for her safety concerns amid the spread of the epidemic," said Zhu, a resident from Fengtai District, bearing anxiety.
Zhu's daughter, who only had classes on campus in No. 8 Middle School in downtown Beijing between April 27 and June 16, when Beijing contained its domestic transmission of COVID-19.
For the rest of the semester, she could only study at home, reporting her health conditions daily to the school.
She will be among the 10.71 million students to sit this year's national college entrance exam in China starting July 7, an increase of 400,000 over last year, according to the Ministry of Education.
The ministry made a decision on March 31 to delay the exam by one month due to COVID-19.
The exam will be the largest organized event in the country since the outbreak of COVID-19. More than 7,000 exam sites will be set up across the country, including around 400,000 exam rooms, and 945,000 people will work as invigilators or service providers.
Beijing will have 49,225 students to sit the exam. Each classroom designated for the exam will allow 20 examinees, down from 30 in the past years, according to Li Yi, the spokesperson of the Beijing municipal education commission.
The exam, also known as the gaokao, is deemed the most important event for Chinese students. It has been hailed as a fair system to select talent and change the fate of children from poor families.
All designated exam sites in Beijing have been under closed-off management.
Since June 11, the Chinese capital has seen a resurgence in locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases, prompting the municipal government to tighten containment measures.
From June 11 to July 2, Beijing reported 331 confirmed locally transmitted cases, 324 of whom were still hospitalized. There are 29 asymptomatic cases under medical observation, according to the municipal health commission.
"Our school has prepared 40 exam rooms and four spare classrooms in case anyone exhibits symptoms of fever and cough during the exam," said Wang Jinjie, deputy chief of the exam site in Dayu Middle School in Mentougou District in the northwest of Beijing.
He said staff will continue to disinfect the classrooms, arrange tables and chairs and check air conditioners.
Li with the municipal education commission said that no confirmed cases or suspected cases have been found among Beijing college entrance examination candidates. Beijing has not mandated all examinees to take nucleic acid tests but has required all invigilators to take the test seven days before the exam. During the exam, all people at the exam sites should wear face masks throughout the exam.
This year, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong and Hainan will join the country's education reform based on the revised curriculum, which will also see the gaokao extended to four days. In addition to math, Chinese and English, which are mandatory subjects, examinees will take the exam for three elective subjects.
When the school semester started in February, Chinese students were all restricted to their homes due to the nationwide epidemic control mechanism. Schools were required to open online curriculums by using official educational websites to ensure that students "are occupied with the guided study at home."
As the epidemic situation was eased in April, senior students of high schools were prioritized to return to campus.
Zhang Yihao, one of more than 1,200 graduating students in Hengshui High School in north China's Hebei Province, said all of the graduating students returned to the boarding school on April 23.
The school has won national fame for securing seats at noted universities in big Chinese cities for at least 80 percent of its graduates in the past two decades, but it also takes criticism for its exam-cramming approach.
"The epidemic affected my progress in preparing for the exam, as well as other examinees. The school schedule from 5:40 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. has kept me adjusted to the sprint for the final contest," said Zhang, who has kept writing a diary to record the special experience of preparing for the gaokao amid the epidemic. Enditem