China Postpones 2020 College Entrance Exam Over Coronavirus Fear

(Bloomberg) --

China pushed its annual college entrance exam back by one month, a sign the government remains worried about the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus infections as cases rise globally.

Students will take the test on July 7 and 8, state television reported, instead of in June. Only the city of Beijing and Hubei province, where the coronavirus first emerged last year, will be allowed to set their own dates, the report said.

The college admission exam, known as Gaokao in Mandarin, is considered the most important test a Chinese student will take in their academic lifetime. Unlike university applications in other countries that use a range of metrics to evaluate students for admission, the Gaokao score singularly determines the college that a Chinese student attends and in turn significantly affects their job prospects.

China’s education ministry has already delayed the start of the spring semester after the coronavirus broke out. Some cities have banned all school activities, and online teaching platforms are seeing a surge in usage.

More than 10 million students registered for the Gaokao in 2019, according to local Chinese media. Other standardized tests associated with college and graduate school admission, including the TOEFL and GRE, have also been delayed at least until May for Chinese students.

Experts are still cautious about a potential second wave of infection in China despite official data showing that cases have stabilized domestically as the pandemic’s epicenter shifts to Europe and the U.S. Imported cases from infected inbound travelers, which account for almost all daily reported new cases in China over the past two weeks, are the major concern for Beijing.

Focus has also increasingly turned to people who are infected but display no symptoms. Such asymptomatic cases have likely played a role in spreading the virus widely in a short amount of time as there’s no easy way to tell they’re sick.

After a growing chorus of domestic and international concern over China’s reluctance to disclose the number of such infections it’s detected, the government indicated on Monday it would start releasing data on them.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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