BEIJING, June 2 (Xinhua) -- China's national college entrance exam saw a decrease in candidates for the first time in the past seven years, said the Ministry of Education Tuesday.
About 10.2 million people registered to attend the upcoming exam, down 3.8 percent year on year, according to the ministry.
In contrast, candidates for the exam saw a continuous increase from 2002 to 2008, jumping from 5.27 million in 2002 to 10.5 million in 2008.
This year's examinees would have more opportunities to enter colleges as they would compete for 6.29 million seats in China's universities and colleges, up four percent from last year, the ministry's figure showed.
About half of the country's provinces and regions earlier reported a decrease in candidate number. Some media reports came to the conclusion that greater employment pressure caused by the international economic downturn led to the drop.
"I don't agree with this view," said Jiang Gang, deputy director of the ministry's college students office.
"The drop of candidate number is mainly due to the decline of senior high school graduates," he said.
Jiang, however, admitted the financial crisis did inflict great pressure the country's job market.
In China, most of the candidates for higher education are students finishing three-year study in senior high schools.
Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed the number of senior high school graduates decreased from 8.49 million last year to 8.34 million this year. It is estimated to be 8.03 million in 2010.
College graduates are having a hard time finding jobs this year as posts are being axed due to the economic slowdown.
China has 6.11 million college students due to graduate this year, and one million from last year are still looking for jobs, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
Known as "gao kao" in Chinese, the national college entrance exam, which falls on June 7 to 9 each year, is the largest examination in the world. The exam can change the candidates' lives in a fiercely competitive society.