By Luo Wangshu
Thursday morning was a bit hot in Beijing. But Shao Cuixia was sitting on the curb under the relentless sun outside the Middle School Affiliated with Beijing University of Chemical Technology.
Meanwhile, her daughter was inside taking the national college entrance exam, or gaokao.
"I'm a little nervous, too," she smiled, adding that gaokao is a big thing in her family this year.
"We are trying our best to assist her. If she asks for any kind of food, we are going to buy it, no matter how far it is," said Shao, adding that her husband cooks for their daughter every day and makes sure she gains enough nutrition.
"The expense for food is increasing in our family this year," Shao said.
A nearby restaurant named Hong Zhuang Yuan, meaning the honor of earning the highest rank in an exam, serves a gaokao meal of soup, noodles and vegetables for students.
"We try to offer quick and easy meals for students, but not expensive ones," said Liu Xianyu, the manager of the restaurant, adding that many parents lined up to reserve gaokao meals for students.
Another nearby restaurant named Xin He Xuan, with an average cost of 100 yuan a person, was crowded with parents waiting for their children.
"Most parents order dishes above average price," said Yang Xiaoli, manager of Xin He Xuan. "Parents order dishes before noon to make sure that students can eat lunch as soon as they finish the morning test."
Gao Huiying, chief physician with the Chinese Nutrition Society, said that some parents overreact to nutrition issues.
"Keeping the meal usual is fine. Costly food doesn't mean the best for students," Gao said, adding that food balance is most important.
Although she wasn't going through the extreme exam pressure, Emilie Bourgois, a French native who has resided in Beijing for three years, said she can understand the fact that parents are stressed about the well-being of their children and try their very best to bring them the best conditions for the examination.
"Gaokao is of extreme importance to one's life in China. The stakes are huge, as the score the kids will achieve will impact the rest of their lives: if he doesn't score high, he or she won't be able to pursue a higher education, or, even worse, he or she won't be able to choose his or her area of study," she said.