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    Students Fret as Guangzhou Postpones Entrance Exam Over COVID-19

    More than 90,000 students have been affected by the decision to delay the “zhongkao” to an unspecified date.

    Tens of thousands of students in Guangzhou preparing to take the high school-entrance exam next week will be required to wait a little longer, as the city has postponed the tests amid its COVID-19 outbreak.

    Gu Zhongpeng, deputy director of the city’s education bureau, said Monday that the zhongkao had been deferred for safety reasons to reduce people’s movements and avoid large gatherings given the area’s ongoing virus outbreak. He added that authorities will decide on the exams’ exact dates depending on the city’s epidemic response.

    “Due to infrastructure limitations, most junior high schools are not equipped to manage centralized on-campus living conditions,” Gu said.

    Over 90,000 students from nearly 500 schools in Guangzhou were scheduled to take this year’s zhongkao between June 20 and 22, according to local authorities. An additional 12,500 supervisors and test administrators were tasked with overseeing the students across over 156 exam sites citywide.

    The decision to postpone the exams has baffled many students and parents, as the city allowed over 53,000 students to sit for the college-entrance examination, or gaokao, last week while imposing strict health measures, including mandatory COVID-19 tests.

    “I still fell apart emotionally when I first heard the decision,” a student surnamed Yan who was preparing for the zhongkao told Sixth Tone on Wednesday, adding she felt she had “lost all momentum.”

    Though the gaokao is considered grueling and usually determines students’ entrance into the country’s elite higher education institutions, the zhongkao is an equally nerve-wracking series of tests that determines future academic prospects.

    “The zhongkao has an even higher elimination rate than the college-entrance exam,” Yan said. “If I can get into a top-tier high school, I’ve won half the battle of getting into a university. If I don’t get into a high school, the only choices left are vocational schools or ending my academic journey.”

    Since the city reported its first COVID-19 infection in the current outbreak on May 21, Guangzhou has counted 147 locally transmitted cases as of Monday, according to the local health authority. With infections on the decline, the city is gradually lifting several restrictions, including lockdowns that had been imposed on 11 areas across five districts.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: A student prays after taking the high school-entrance exam in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, June 17, 2018. Tan Qingju/Southern Metropolis Daily/VCG)