2019-01-08 12:34:48

A mobile app used to register for entrance exams at China’s top fine arts institutes crashed on Sunday due to high web traffic, according to Zhejiang-based media outlet Qianjiang Evening News. The technological debacle has sent hundreds of thousands of students into a frenzy.

The app, Yishu Sheng, is a third-party exam registration platform used by dozens of higher education institutes, including eight of China’s most prominent fine arts academies. At 6 a.m. on Sunday, the arts academies in Tianjin and Xi’an opened registration for their entrance exams, resulting in a surge of web traffic and a six-hour blackout.

Now, students who were unable to register are panicking. By Tuesday evening, the hashtag “700,000 arts students lost the chance to register for exams” had been viewed over 210 million times on microblogging platform Weibo. “Oh my gosh, I’ve been trying to register for the Xi’an Arts Academy [exam] since I got up this morning, and it’s now 7 p.m. I’m so angry. I missed three meals for this. I’m absolutely furious,” read one comment with nearly 5,000 likes.

Though Sixth Tone was unable to verify whether 700,000 students had indeed been affected, the app outage is a serious concern to many families: High schoolers who aren’t able to register for entrance exams could be left in the lurch following graduation.

The app’s developer, Hangzhou Yixian Information Technology Co. Ltd., published a notice on Monday saying it had resumed service and was running well. The company’s founder, Li Shenxin, apologized the same day in an interview with Qianjiang Evening News, saying he had not expected so much traffic: The app had 300,000 simultaneous users on Sunday compared with just 30,000 on the same registration day last year, according to Li.

But Li and his company had good reason to expect more web traffic this year. On Dec. 29, the Ministry of Education published a notice advising arts academies not to hold college-level entrance exams in 2019, creating uncertainty about whether there would be enough seats to accommodate student interest. In addition, while students hoping to attend one of the eight elite arts academies could previously register for exams on either the Yishu Sheng app or the schools’ websites, the app is the only available option this year.

Hangzhou Yixian registered as a company in August 2015. Since early 2016, Chinese arts academies have been using its Yishu Sheng app to manage registration for their entrance exams. In 2017, the company claimed to cover exam registration for 87 institutes of higher education, from fine arts academies to media and communications universities.

Following the chaotic weekend, the Ministry of Education’s press office said on Jan. 7 that it is investigating the case. It also urged any affected institutions to extend their registration deadlines. Some, including the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, have already done so.

“Every arts candidate’s journey is very difficult. For us, these tests are equivalent to the gaokao,” one student wrote on Weibo, referring to China’s notoriously stressful college entrance exams. “I hope this receives due attention from the authorities.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Students sketch pictures during an arts exam in Jinan, Shandong province, Feb. 16, 2016. Wen Lu/VCG)