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56-year-old ‘gaokao holdout’ fails to make the cut for 27th time

BEIJING: After failing to achieve a high enough score on China´s dreaded college entry exam for the 27th time, 56-year-old Liang Shi is beginning to wonder if he will ever make it to his dream university.

Liang, a self-made millionaire, has taken the gruelling “gaokao” exam dozens of times over the past four decades, hoping to earn a place at top-tier Sichuan University and fulfil his ambition of becoming “an intellectual”.

By most measures, Liang has had a successful life — he worked his way up from a menial job on a factory floor to establishing his own construction materials business, making millions of yuan in the process, but his university dreams have so far eluded him.

In his quest for a prestigious higher education, he has put in 12-hour study days, abstained from drinking and playing mahjong, and endured the media mocking him as the “gaokao holdout”, as well as online suspicion that it is all a publicity stunt.

But despite months of living like “an ascetic monk”, this year Liang was 34 points short of the provincial baseline for getting into any university.

“Before I got the result, I had a feeling that I wouldn´t be able to get a high enough score to enter an elite university,” he told AFP. “But I didn´t expect to not make it into the ordinary ones.”

Shortly before 10 pm Friday — along with hundreds of thousands of high-school students across southwestern Sichuan province — the grey-haired businessman carefully typed in his exam identification information and nervously waited to find out how he´d done.

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