Many high school students no longer see the college entrance exam as the only way forward. More and more are choosing to go abroad to continue their studies.
Li Xinyang is a Third Grade student at Beijing's prestigious No.4 high school. Unlike many of his classmates, Li doesn't need to take part in the college entrance exam, as he has already been accepted by Yale, Stanford and MIT in the US.
Li decided to study abroad when he was in junior high and was preparing for the TOFEL exam and the S-A-T's. But he didn't narrow his options. The straight A student remained active both in and out of the classroom.
Li Xinyang said，"Although I'll go abroad, I still need to study hard and attend volunteering activities here, which are important to me. I didn't give up further opportunities at home. So I also prepared for the college entrance exam at the same time."
Li Xinyang is not alone. The Ministry of Education shows a growing number of students study abroad, with 180-thousand this year. 20 to 30 percent of those are high school graduates. That trend is one of many reasons why numbers are down for this year's entrance exam.
But not everyone wants to work towards twin goals like Li. For students like Chen Yao, who has little chance of getting good results in the college entrance exam, studying abroad may be the only road to a bright future.
Chen Yao said, "If I take the college entrance exam in China, I can only get into a college without a bachelor degree. There may be better opportunities abroad, once my foreign language is up to scratch."
But for many students, crossing the language barrier is harder than expected. Liu Tong travelled to Beijing from his hometown Shenyang for an intensive English training course. But opting out of the college entrance exam doesn't mean life becomes any easier.
Liu Tong said, "I've taken the TOFEL test once. I think it's very difficult."
And language is only the first step in the quest to study abroad.
Students need to pass entrance exam for the country they wish to study in, and their scores and performances in high school will be an important reference point.
Delegate from James Cook University said, "If a student has bad record in high school, how can he convince us he's a good student? If he got high scores in China, he can also study hard in Australia with good achievements."
Studying abroad doesn't mean a lower standard. The competition to enter top ranking universities is equally fierce at home and abroad.
Li Xinyang was also admitted by China's top-ranking Tsinghua University, without even having to sit the exam. But in the end he selected Yale.
He'll start a new chapter of his life after the summer, but for now at least, all his hard work has paid off.
(CCTV June 9, 2009)