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Students at odds over perplexing gaokao essays

(Global Times)

09:34, June 09, 2013

Some 9 million high school seniors sat through the first day of gaokao, or the national college entrance exams on Friday, scribbling down answers for the first test subject, Chinese Language - a popular conversation piece among the public due to the wide range of topics each province sets for the essay portion that closes out the exam paper.

The written portion greatly influences the student's final grade on the subject. But some of the topics, which have been described as "odd," left many students confused over what kind of answers to provide.

Students in Hunan Province were most perplexed by the two choices they were given Friday morning. The first topic was stated as, "It flies upward, and a voice asks if it is tired. It says 'No'."

The second said, "A father is cutting articles out of a newspaper while his child embraces him and says, 'I'm willing to accompany you just like this.'"

"This is insane. Can somebody please tell me what these two topics are supposed to mean?" asked one Web user.

But Wang Liqun, a professor of literature at Henan University, said that not all students struggled.

"Some individuals fly, not worried about life's difficulties or their parents while others are content spending time with family, like the kid in the second topic," Wang decoded. "The topics want students to look at both ways of living."

Jiangsu Province, meanwhile, asked students to comment on a short story.

The story said that a group of explorers went into a dark cave and lit candles, but left after they noticed a bunch of butterflies - not wanting to disturb them.

When they went back a few days later, they saw that the butterflies had flown deep inside the cave; they wondered if the candlelight had influenced the butterflies' behavior.

"I don't understand why we have to drag butterflies and caves into the writing section," said a Weibo user. "The themes should be about love and responsibility; that's what students have to think about."

Students in Jiangxi Province also met uncertainty with their topic, which said: "There's a slang term 'three fears,' which describes high school students' fear of Olympic mathematics, English and Zhou Shuren."

Zhou is an influential contemporary writer that went by pen name Lu Xun. His works are studied in high school.

"Some are afraid of the 'three fears' and some are not.What do you think of the 'fear' and 'lack of fear'?"

Students in Beijing were asked about a conversation on cellphones between a scientist and a writer.

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