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Teachers feel exam pressure, too

By Luo Wangshu  (China Daily)

13:57, June 08, 2012

Ma Tingting holds her 19-month-old son at home in Guantao county, Hebei province, on May 29. Ma's husband, Zhao Peng, a teacher, killed himself ahead of this year's gaokao due to work pressure. Luo Wangshu / China Daily

Zhang Ting has been struggling to sleep for weeks, unable to turn her mind from the dreaded national college entrance exam.

"I've felt sick and anxious all this month," she said during a study break at Beijing No 5 High School. "You can smell the tension around here."

And Zhang is not even a student; she is a teacher.

"It's just as nerve-racking for us as it is for them," said the 28-year-old, who has been in the job for two years. "Student or teacher, we're all in the same boat."

The annual exam, more commonly known as gaokao, which is on Thursday and Friday this year, has been held since 1977 and is arguably the most daunting challenge a Chinese student will ever face.

Ma Tingting holds her 19-month-old son at home in Guantao county, Hebei province, on May 29. Ma's husband, Zhao Peng, a teacher, killed himself ahead of this year's gaokao due to work pressure. Luo Wangshu / China Daily



Yet, experts in health and education say the adults who teach them are under just as much pressure.

A 2010 study that appeared in the Journal of Jiangsu Institute of Education showed that almost 45 percent of primary and middle school teachers are experiencing some form of psychological problem.

Likewise, a poll conducted by Southwest University last year found many respondents complained of overwork and extreme anxiety.

The situation is even worse in the run up to gaokao, warned Guo Xiamei, an educational psychologist at Ohio State University in the United States, "purely because it's such an essential time for Chinese youths".

Schools often provide benefits for senior class teachers, such as vacations paid by schools. However, students' performance at gaokao ties with teachers' income in some areas, which adds to the pressure.

Sheng Zhihao, a teacher at Beijing No 44 Middle School for more than seven years, said the problem is so bad that many people are leaving the profession.

No official data are available. However, he estimated that "about 5 to 10 percent of teachers (in his area) are quitting the classroom every year. I hope to be one of them this year."


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