Graduating students prepare for the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, at a high school in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, June 5, 2019. (Photo: sipa)
About 10.71 million high schoolers have registered for the annual college entrance exam known as gaokao, which will be put off a month to July in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to the Ministry of Education.
The ministry has decided to put off the two-day gaokao to July 7 and 8 this year, the first postponement since it was resumed in 1977. College recruitment has also been put off by a month.
The decision was aimed at ensuring student health and reducing the epidemic's impact on rural examinees, said Wang Hui, head of the ministry's Department of College Students Affairs, at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.
Wang said the priority is to make sure no teachers and students are exposed to the virus during the upcoming gaokao -- a major social event in China which is crucial to selecting talent and maintaining social fairness and concerns every family.
Though domestic infections have almost been contained, sporadic outbreaks remain possible and imported cases are increasing, he said.
He said the one-month postponement could reduce infection risks.
"Health is the priority for gaokao as it involves millions of students, and the plan has been adopted to minimize risk for examinees and examiners," he told a daily news conference in Beijing.
Wang said the arrangement is fairer for rural college applicants forced to study from home, as they are under greater threat from the outbreak due to poor internet connections in rural areas.
As slowing domestic infections has allowed college applicants to return to school, the delay could give them more time to prepare for the exam with teacher's guidance, he said.