Students in central China pay huge money for a kung fu master certification to have an edge over others at the nation's all-important university entrance exam.
Some students in Hunan province who achieved top exam scores forked out around 20,000 yuan (3,000 dollars) for a martial arts course that all but guaranteed them extra points towards their overall mark, the official Global Times said.
Advertisement"During my first year in high school, my head teacher asked me if I wanted to sign up for a kung fu course, which he said would earn me 20 extra points for the college entrance exams," an unidentified student was quoted as saying.
"But the money is refundable if I don't get the extra points."
The scheme is an example of the great lengths families will go to secure higher scores for their children at the "gaokao", the entrance examination for China's highly competitive universities.
The exam, taken by nearly 10 million students this year, can be a turning point in a student's life often determining whether they enter the country's educated elite or join the general workforce.
Students with a talent for sports or music can gain extra marks in the exam as part of a policy designed to reward non-academic skills, leading some to resort to extreme measures to secure the bonus points.
Some 30 children cheated in a marathon in the southeastern city of Xiamen this year, by hopping onto public transport during the race or hiring faster runners to compete in their place.
Police also arrested six people in northwestern China suspected of selling receivers and earpieces to students sitting the high-pressure exam, which is believed to have triggered at least three suicides this year.
The report said some schools have cooperated with kung fu course providers, but concerns over fairness have been raised after one martial arts skills test this year gave an apparently weak student a high score. Children from poorer families cannot afford expensive courses.