Sunday, January 6, 2008

The College Entrance Exam of 1977

The New York Times published an interesting article today commemorating the college entrance exam of 1977 in China. Thirty years ago, the culture revolution had interrupted higher education for a decade. High school graduates were sent down to country side to receive "reeducation" from the peasants, with their lives permanently fixated in hard labor.

That had all changed in 1977, when the new leader Deng Xiaoping re-instituted the National College Entrance Exam. He did that only months after he regained power, as one of the first critical decisions he had ever made. The decision sent shock waves throughout the country and millions of families to drop everything at hand for the preparation of the exams. 5.7 million youth took the exam and only 4.7 percent of them gained admission to any colleges.

The Times article listed a few prominent names in that generation, such as Li Keqiang (李克强), who is now poised to become the next generation to lead the country.

However, the article failed to mention another group of people in that 1977 class. People such as Hu Ping (胡平), Chen Ziming (陈子明), and Wang Juntao (王军涛). They played significant roles in the subsequent Beijing Spring movement and the 1980 local election campaign in Beijing. Later, Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao was deeply involved in the 1989 student movement and was blamed as the "black hands" behind the students.

One of the student leaders of the 1989 movement, Liu Gang (刘刚), also belonged to that class of 1977. He took the exam despite of his young age: he was only a junior in high school at the time. But he earned a score good enough to be admitted into the University of Science and Technology of China.

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