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School Becomes Pilgrimage Site For Anxious Parents

School Becomes Pilgrimage Site For Anxious Parents

A Chinese school has become a place of pilgrimage for anxious parents and children who come to pray before it in the belief that such devotion helps pupils pass a crucial university entrance exam.

The school has an outstanding academic record. But that has merely translated into superstition and hocus-pocus among locals who believe that the school, which also has a huge "tree of knowledge" that stands inside the grounds, has magical powers to make children excel in tests.

The school in Maotanchang town in East China's Anhui province. The school has earned a reputation as a "Gaokao Mill" for its success in preparing a large number of students to pass the national college entrance exam.

Gaokao is short for The National Higher Education Entrance Examination and a student’s score on this all-important standardised test is pretty much the only thing that matters when it comes to determining whether or not they can go to universities - and if they can, what institute they can attend.

Many of the students from Maotanchang get accepted into prestigious Chinese universities, including Beijing and Fudan, by doing well in the tests.

The tree inside the school has become much revered. "Many parents believe that praying to the tree will bring luck and high test scores to their children. On the first and fifteenth day of each month in the lunar calendar, the tree is surrounded by anxious people who have children or relatives preparing for the Gaokao exam," said teacher Yong Lu.

In 2013, the school had 10,000 senior students take the Gaokao. Since parents usually accompany their children from rural areas to the town when they prepare for the exam, the high school has created numerous job opportunities in the local area as families need places to eat and stay. The local government also has adopted a policy to "promote economic growth through further developing the high school".

People wave incense as they wait to pray for students' success in the college entrance exam around the tree.

Teacher Yong added; "I think it is all mumbo jumbo but who cares? I say it is down to our good teaching but whether it comes from a tree or swotting up, the fact is we are one of the best."

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