Chinese Student Studies For Gaokao
A Chinese student studying for the all-important gaokao test naps during his lunch break in a classroom in Hefei. Reuters

Though China’s high school students are buckling down for the looming and notoriously grueling "gaokao" college-entrance exam, which will be taken over two to three days in June, preparation for their future began long before. Chinese parents have been prepping their children for their futures in preschool MBA programs beginning as young as three years old.

In a report from Channel News Asia, Chen Xi, a Shanghai mother of 6-year-old Angela, said the skills taught at her FasTracKids preschool program have already shown results.

“For example at the supermarket, when she sees something she wants to eat, she’ll confidently buy it. She’ll calculate how much I give her and get change,” Chen said. “Even if it’s something small like a bottle of water of a lollipop, she has been through the process so it’s not strange to her.”

The 90-minute classes are aimed to cultivate leadership, teamwork and financial acumen, as would an adult MBA program. This is done through several exercises and activities, including learning how to barter without currency, instead giving children pieces of leather and leaves to exchange. Group work includes making a mock trip to the grocery store and deciding as a group how to get the most for their play money.

The two-year program is offered to children between the ages of three and six and can set a parent back 3,600 yuan, or just under $590. Some 100,000 children have graduated from the program, and it is only becoming more popular. Since launching its first center in 2004, FasTracKids has opened more than 100 outlets across China. In fact, preparation programs like this have become popular for parents who want their kids to be learning business-savvy skills at every age.

Last August, a financial tutoring institute launched a similar program in Chengdu for older children, which is more rigorous. Children enrolled in this program will take the two-year program by completing courses for three hours a week. At 60,000 yuan, or $9,675, the program claims to “cultivate children’s ability to manage money.” The classes are taught by four full-time lecturers, most of them former English teachers. In addition, the school enlists part-time lecturers who are flown in from the UK every three to four months.

With so much money and time being put into their education starting at such a young age, it is no surprise that a survey conducted by China Youth and Children Research Center found that 87 percent of students surveyed felt they were under immense pressure to do well from both their parents and themselves.

Many stories of the ridiculous measures students and parents will go to in order to perform well on the gaokao exam are documented every year. Some students who were victims of the Yaan earthquake in Sichuan province this April continued to study for their exams in rescue tents amid the massive destruction. Last week, a teacher recommended that girls who experience painful or distracting menstruation periods take birth control so their cycles do not affect their studies.