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Students Tear Up Books Before Big Exam

Stress Release or Disrespectful Littering?

The gaokao, China’s annual National Higher Education Entrance Examination, is known for being extremely difficult and a stressful rite of passage for Chinese students. Due to the society’s traditional emphasis on education, many Chinese people still believe in a direct correlation between one’s diploma and one’s future income level and social standing. In many ways, the gaokao today still resembles the civil service examination in imperial China, offering students (and their families) a merit-based opportunity for upward social mobility. A motivational banner popular on Chinese high school campuses says it all: “Without the gaokao, how do we compete with someone who has a rich dad?” For a comprehensive look on this year’s gaokao drama, read a roundup of articles that the China Digital Times has prepared.

The video shows students from Yibin No.1 High School in Sichuan province tearing apart their textbooks and throwing the pages into the air, just a few days before June 7, 2012, the first day of the gaokao. The scraps of paper rained down in the school's courtyard, scattering everywhere.

Many netizens on Sina Weibo appeared sympathetic to the students, saying that they were just trying to let off steam after years of studying hard.

720彬雨: It is OK to vent stress in such a way! Wish all the exam candidates will do their best and get into their ideal universities! Good luck!

某熊某熊: Book tearing before the gaokao is a way to tear up the oppressiveness (of school life) and the students’ deep weariness of the sea of exam questions.

沉默_3308: This might be the only way senior high school students can express their current state of mind.

love_阿成: I remember we did the same thing on the same day two years ago! As someone who has walked on the same path, I want to say it is just for fun. It is not a rebellion against the exam-oriented education system. We were never that politically conscious. All we wanted is to have some fun in life and keep some wonderful memories, not much else!

By contrast, others argued in their comments that the students should have chosen a way to release stress that didn’t involve littering their environment and disrespecting their learning materials.

rebbey: They are not persons of letters! No matter how heavy the pressure is, they should still try to find appropriate ways to get it off their chests. Such behaviors have an adverse effect on younger students as well as society.

周祥岭: I personally believe that what they did shows their lack of respect towards books as well as their own efforts.

青岛志远酒业: Nowadays, students treat ignorance as personality and regard extravagance as fashion. I don't understand how schoolteachers teach their students. As the students tearing apart the books, did they ever think about how hard their parents worked in order to afford for them to go to school?

Some comments on Weibo went beyond passing judgement on the students' behavior. Many argued that the nature of the Chinese education system, instead of the students themselves, should be held responsible for the book-tearing phenomenon.

正和岛王昆鹏: Grief comes from my heart. Students, the fault is not yours but the education system’s. When you tore up the suppression within your heart, you also tore up the hypocritical mask of indoctrination-style education. But what a pity, these books also carry with them memories of your adolescence.

A地图: China’s education system is really problematic. It cultivated a drove of this kind of youth. The ideology of a country determines the country’s future! In the end, the reform of the system has to continue. The more oppression, the more rebellion.