China’s graduating high school students are bracing themselves for the arduous "gaokao" college entrance exams, a test so grueling that it is notorious in the country for driving students to do anything to get an advantage.
According to China’s state-run newspaper People’s Daily, a teacher in eastern Anhui province had some advice to offer her female students looking to focus on their studies and not their bothersome natural bodily functions: take birth control.
Thursday, someone posted on a Ma’anshan, Anhui website, saying that she was the mother of a female student who came home from school after being asked about her menstrual cycle and whether or not she experiences cramps and pain as a side effect. The teacher also recommended the student take oral contraceptives as soon as possible to avoid pain possibly affecting her test scores, as testing begins in fewer than twenty days. The mother of the student, only identified as Ms. Shao, was interviewed by Nanjing’s local Evening News and expressed understanding that a teacher would take extra precaution on her high-performing daughter, but thought it would have been better to get in touch with parents before offering such advice.
According to Education News China, female students often worry about how their menstrual cycles, and the side effects that go along with them, like painful cramps, could negatively affect their studying habits. “I’m very worried that during the days of the test, my ‘good friend’ will show up and affect my test results,” one girl was quoted saying.
Reporters went around several high schools in Ma’anshan and spoke to ten female students who were gearing up for the test, to see if this was a real concern that female students had. Half of the interviewed students said they were “very worried” about it affecting their scores. Two of the students had already gone to a doctor for medicine that will adjust when they begin menstruating for after the test.
One student, identified as Li, realized her period would begin during the days of the gaokao test, and said she would probably take her teacher’s advice and take contraceptives to delay it: “I get serious cramps and other issues every time I have my period and I am worried that over ten years of study might be ruined by my period.” Li has already sought the professional opinion of a doctor and discussed taking birth control, but even the doctor was not sold on the plan. “The doctor recommends that I do not do this, and instead that I would be fine just using some painkillers, I’m still quite worried.”
Another student, named Jie, told reporters that her teacher had gathered all the girls in the clas and talked to them about menstruating during their tests. The teacher, however, was a young male, and couldn’t offer much advice, telling the girls to “go to the pharmacy and buy some medicine called Levonorgestrel (an oral contraceptive), then take it for a few days before the test.”
The Ma’anshan Department of Education responded to the incident by saying that the department has never encouraged nor promoted birth control methods to assist female students because of how private the issues are. As a result the Department of Education maintains that while it does not promote birth control use by female students, it also does not have the authority to prohibit it.
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