• Students take the annual college entrance exam or "gaokao" in China.

Students take the annual college entrance exam or "gaokao" in China. (Photo : Getty Images)

Education experts are urging colleges and universities to find new recruitment methods for them to enroll enough students as the number of gaokao takers dropped this year, China Daily reported.

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Gaokao or China's annual national college entrance test, which began on Tuesday, had 9.4 million takers this year, which is 20,000 fewer than 2015's figure.

Data shows that at least 13 of 34 Chinese municipalities saw a decline in the number of students who registered to take gaokao this year.

According to an annual gaokao survey published by portal eol.cn, the number of takers has fallen to record-breaking lows in Bejing, Liaoning and Jiangsu provinces.

Gaokao is regarded as the most important test in China, "as only a small proportion of the students can be enrolled at top universities each year."

Eol.cn editor-in-chief Chen Zhiwen noted that this news will especially affect lesser-known universities and colleges, "as it will be more difficult for [them] to recruit enough students."

Chen believes that the decline is caused by the shrinking college-age student populace, in addition to the increase of Chinese students eyeing to study abroad.

Population authorities noted that in 1990, around 25 million people were born, which led to the record-high number of gaokao takers in 2008. After 1990, the number of babies born diminished, consequently decreasing the number of gaokao takers from 2009 to 2013.

The decline halted in 2014 and the figure became stable for two years at an average of 9.4 million.

Meanwhile, as for the number of Chinese students who went overseas to study, China has recorded the highest statistic last year of at least 520,000.

Chen predicted that with such circumstances, colleges and universities might continue to experience a student recruitment issue.

Xiong Bingqi, vice president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, suggested one solution: to foster the strengths of academic institutions.