Last month, around 9.12 million Chinese high school students took perhaps one of the most important exams of their lives: China's national college entrance examination, as known as the gaokao. At the same time, over one million Chinese high school students decided to give up on this so-called "life changing opportunity."
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Over the past five years, figures for those taking the gaokao have been declining quite dramatically,
from a peak of 10.5 million in 2008 to 9.15 million in 2012, due in part to the shrinking number of young people in China. On the other hand, the number of "gaokao quitters" has steadily increased. According to the statistics released by the Ministry of
Education in 2013, among the one million high school students who gave up on the gaokao, around 80 percent choose to enter the job market right away and
the rest are either planning to study overseas or taking the exam next year. Unlike the young people of the 1980s or even 1990s, today, more and more are inclined to believe that knowledge is useless rather
than a way to change one's destiny.
The dim job prospects facing Chinese college graduates may be one factor driving the phenomenon. This year, around 6.99 million students are graduating from institutions of higher education in China. Ahead of them is the so-called "hardest job-hunting season of all time." According to the latest statistics released by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education, only 33.6 percent of college graduates in Beijing have signed employment contracts. In Guangdong province, both the employment rate and entry-level salaries for college graduates are lower than those of vocational students this year.