The China Youth Daily is a commercial daily run by the Communist Youth League. Today’s cover story: “Taking the train to the gaokao.” The gaokao is China’s university entrance exam. It is offered once a year, on a single day, to students across the country, and is the single factor deciding if and where they go to university. It is the most stressful time of life for Chinese teenagers and their parents.
Today, June 7, was this year’s test date, and it made headlines across the country. The China Youth Daily features the personal stories of several students from Weinan village in Gansu province, who took the train to the nearby city of Tianshu to sit the exam. It’s only about a 20-minute drive, but that drive costs RMB 11, which is a bit expensive. Most families prefer to take the 40-minute train for the price of RMB 2.5. The article describes how students on the train all wore clean clothes for the occasion, and eagerly talked on the train about their dreams and ambitions while their parents seemed anxious and worried.
The first story in the article focuses on a boy, Wang Jianfeng, who woke up at 6 am to catch the train. He is featured in one of the photos on the front page, boarding the train while the caption reads: “Test-taker Wang Jianfeng boards the train to his exam. He hopes this train will lead him to a better future.”
The other, larger photograph depicts a mother and daughter together on the train. The daughter, Pu Xueni, is 17 years old. Her mother and grandmother made a special breakfast of fried eggs for the occasion and her mother anxiously held her hand the whole train ride there. In an interview, the mother recounted the day of Xueni’s birth. She has high hopes for her daughter. Xueni whispered in the reporter’s ear, “My mother is very hard working. I want to do well on the exam so that I can repay all her hard work.”
A second article just below the gaokao feature piece talks about local everyday heroes and how the Chinese people should strive to be like them. The headline reads: “People with common jobs can have extraordinary spirit.” It describes several recent cases of selfless heroism on the part of a teacher, a policeman and two bus drivers, each who sacrificed him or her self to save others, and urges readers to “learn from these good people, and reflect on the gap between us and them”