Why armed China police and extraordinary security surround key national gaokao exam

By South China Morning Post | Created at 2024-06-11 12:48:46 | Updated at 2024-06-17 00:59:49 5 days ago
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Explainer | Why armed China police and extraordinary security surround key national gaokao exam

Mainland social media has hailed the fact that test papers for China’s most important examination – known on the mainland as gaokao – are drafted under strict security and printed in designated prisons.

The university entrance examination enjoys the highest security classification in the country to ensure fairness and justice for every person who takes the test, the state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Success or failure in the test is widely recognised as being a key factor in deciding a young person’s future.

More than 13 million people, the majority of whom were secondary school graduates, took the examination this year, the highest number in China’s history, making the competition more intense than before.

The importance of the landmark exam is underlined by the measures in place to protect its integrity.

The transportation of gaokao exam papers to test centres takes place under strict security. Photo: QQ.com

Top secret operation

About three months before the test, a small number of senior teachers from secondary schools and universities are strictly selected to design the test papers, the CCTV report said.

They are sent to remote and isolated parts of Beijing, such as military facilities or prisons, to be trained in secrecy-maintenance before coming up with exam questions.

During this period, they can only contact their families using landline telephones under strict supervision. They are also unable to connect to the internet during the prcess to assure security is tight.

The test designers only leave the secluded locations after the exam has been held.

Most test papers are printed in prisons under the authority of both the Ministry of Education and the National Administration of State Secrets Protection.

Each print workshop is heavily protected by a range of 24-hour security measures such as cameras and guards.

Print workers are required to stay in isolated premises and are rigorously managed.

More secure than banks

Test papers are transported across the country under armed guard, often to a security level higher than that of banks and the armoured vehicles which carry their cash.

More than 13 million people, mainly secondary school graduates, took the test this year. Photo: Xinhua

The vehicles and their surroundings along the route to test centres are also kept under strict surveillance.

Before being presented to people taking the test, gaokao papers are kept in designated secure storehouses and guarded by security staff around the clock.

The security architecture that protects the test papers has sparked much interest on mainland social media.

“The secrecy-maintenance endeavour is beyond my imagination! Thanks to the authorities for putting so much effort in keeping the test papers a secret,” said one person on Weibo.

While another said: “For most of us, gaokao is the only route to success. So it must be carried out in a fair way.”

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