May 28th, 2011

"National Higher Entrance Exam" pressure.

The "National Higher Entrance Exam" is China's equivalent of A-Levels. The kids sit 6 exams in most provinces. They have to do a core exams in Chinese, Maths and an MFL (usually English but sometimes Russian or Japanese) and 2 from either Geography History or Politics or Chemistry Physics and Biology.

It's affectionately (or not so affectionately, depending on your point of view) called the Gao Kao. I'm not sure what the official translation of that is, but if I were to ask the kids, they'd probably admit it could be translated as "Intense amounts of pressure from parents, schools, provinces, universities and themselves" (if they got English irony).

Apparently it has an adverse affect on some kids health here, especially amongst those that struggle. We had a suicide here ourselves last weekend. The pressure got so intense for the kid that he jumped out of a dormitory window. The school doesn't seem to have done much to commemorate the kids death either, which isn't really surprising given it'd hardly present them in a good light.

I finished Loose Ends, by Terri Reid, today.

Loose Ends, by Terri Reid, sees private investigator Mary O'Reilly look into the accidental drowning of an Illinois politician's campaign aide in 1984. The book's set in the present day, but she's called in because she can see ghosts, and the politician's wife is convinced that she's being haunted. While investigating the case, she's sidetracked into investigating a local child's disappearance, doubling her workload in this book.

In a way, the story reminded me of the TV show Monk. Like Monk, O'Reilly's viewed as the local kook (word's got out about her skills), she doesn't actually do much investigating (she interviewed one person in the first 60% of the book), and not much actually happens, but it still feels like it's moving forward at a fair old lick.