CHENGDU, June 8 (Xinhua) -- For totally opposite reasons Liang Shi and Yang Chengxing have became online celebrities due to the nation's obsession with gaokao, China's college entrance exam, that's currently being sat by millions.
Liang, 45, is probably the country's most tenacious gaokao candidate. He's sitting a 16th exam this year after 15 failures, while 21-year-old Yang is viewed as a rebel for choosing not to sit the exam.
The two met on a talk show on the Dragon TV, a satellite broadcaster based in Shanghai, this week, participating in the debate: does higher education necessarily means a better future.
Called "king of gaokao" by Internet users, Liang's dream is to enter the prestigious Sichuan University in the southwestern city of Chengdu to study mathematics.
The man took his first college entrance exam in 1983. He was enrolled by a local technical school in 1985, but soon dropped out to continue seeking his dream of entering college to get a passport to a decent job.
Liang now successfully runs a building material business, and his son entered university last year, but he still thinks he won't be fulfilled without receiving higher education.
"I don't think you will have a promising prospect if you dropped out from college because I well know that to start a business is difficult especially on the condition of lacking enough knowledge," Liang told Yang Chengxing on the talk show.
Endowed with outstanding talent, Yang had got a series of prizes for his creative inventions when he was a high school student in Chongqing.
Yang rejected offers from several prestigious universities in 2011 including Fudan University in Shanghai and instead entered a vocational college in Chongqing municipality without taking the entrance exams.
Now he is considering quitting the college to start his own business. But his family oppose him taking this path.
"Even though you can get a college diploma, you still have to work for other people. But my dream is to be my own boss and employ others to work for me," Yang responded to Liang.
Yang's inventions have won three national patents.
"I want to become China's Edison, Bill Gates and Zuckerberg. College courses are so boring. They will waste my time and affect my inventions if I continue to stay at college," Yang said.
Yang says completing college education doesn't necessarily lead to career success, citing the unemployment pressure for graduates as a result of college enrollment expansion since more than 10 years ago.
Yang's theory can be partly illustrated by another Internet legend, "Brother Pancake."
As a college graduate majoring in digital design, Yang Yulong, the 27-year-old Shandong native, started his business of selling pancakes in Tai'an City of Shandong Province, almost three years after graduation from a college.
After fooling around with different jobs in big cities like Shanghai and Jinan for three years, Brother Pancake found it was more stable and profitable to run a pancake store in his hometown.
His story has encouraged many high school and college students to question the value of academic study.
A Internet user "Zhemoxiaonan" on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, said he felt disappointed about college education, which in turn undermined his passion for preparation for gaokao.
Educators and sociology researchers, however, said it is unreasonable to take Brother Pancake as an example of failure of higher education.
They argue that people's understanding of higher education should change with the times.
College graduates are no longer elites as more people are admitted to study at universities, said Hu Guangwei, deputy director of the Sociology Institute at the Sichuan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
"It is no longer the time when university graduates are regarded as rare talents. Higher education should no longer be simply regarded as a way of changing one's fate, it's only a course of seeking self-improvement," Hu said.
Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that about 9.15 million people this year will sit the college entrance exams to vie for 6.85 million vacancies in the country's universities and colleges.
It is estimated that this year's admission rate is 75 percent, which is up nearly 3 percentage points year-on-year, according to a statement issued by the ministry on Tuesday.
According to official statistics, the number of college graduates in 2011 is about 6.6 million, while the employment rate for new college and university graduates in the year was 77.8 percent.