High school students in China spend nearly every waking moment preparing for the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, commonly known as the Gaokao. This includes Saturdays, long school days and almost no breaks from the end of junior high through the test date. What happens when they leave high school is determined by this test, which is mainly memorization-based rather than applied knowledge. What our REACH program does is try to provide social skills and knowledge that are not rote, but give the students confidence and joy in themselves outside the realm of studying and school. Below is a story provided about the recent trip CWEF university students made to go back to their alma mater and encourage CWEF scholarship students to have hope. (Note: a grade 3 student is equivalent to a high school senior in the US.)
“A blur of green and white uniforms set against a grey sky makes its way uphill toward Xiangshan Middle School. On this cool and rainy first of March, moisture is not the only thing permeating the air; tension bigger than any raincloud billows above these students. The Gaokao is just 100 days away and a large, red banner hung across the entrance of the school leaves no doubt: the biggest test of their young lives is around the corner.
In a classroom on the second floor of the school however, the clouds of anxiety are dissipating and making way for rays of light in the form of smiling school girls. Amongst the murmuring, laughter is heard and hope rises from the ranks of these Grade 3 EMBER scholarship students. Seven EMBER University Scholarship recipients, and veterans of the Gaokao, are volunteering their time to come back to Xiangshan Middle School to counsel current high school scholarship recipients and REACH participants before the big exam. Not only have these seven returned, but included in the girls’ counseling packets are scores of letters from almost every former scholarship recipient. Some of these former recipients are in university and some are in the working world, but all have given advice and encouragement to their ‘sisters’.
And while the girls are excited to share in the insight of their counselors who have ‘been there, done that’, the seriousness in their faces does not waiver for long. The difference, however, between these girls and a hundred other their age is clear: hope. There is life after the Gaokao. This life may be in a university or it may be in the working world, but wherever they happen to be these things they will remember: they are loved, their ideas are worthy, their lives are important.”
To have students come back to offer encouragement to those about to take the test is encouragement to us that we can help young students have confidence in themselves. To learn more about EMBER visit their website. To learn more about the pressure of the Gaokao test you can visit our Facebook page and find articles linked there.