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Education in China

To serve the needs of over 1 billion people, China has developed a vast and thorough state administered public education system. The Chinese education system offers schooling from pre-school to graduate school and mandates that every child receive a basic education.

However, with such a large population, there is extreme pressure put on the students to excel, as space in the best senior secondary schools and universities are limited. Students who desire higher education must take two very difficult tests, each only offered once a year.

The Ministry of Education


The Ministry of Education, headquartered in Beijing, is the state department responsible for the education system in China. In their mission to "modernize China through education", they certify teachers, standardize textbooks and curriculum, and enforce national education standards.

The Law of Nine-Year Compulsory Education

The Law of Nine-Year Compulsory Education took affect July 1, 1986 and established deadlines and requirements in an effort to attain a universal education for all school aged children. The law requires that all children attend school for a minimum of nine years.

Although the bill authorizes tuition free education for the compulsory nine years, this remains a target rather than a reality. The government does work to reduce the cost of tuition and supplies and also provide stipends for poor families.

History of the Modern Education of China

From 1911-1949

The elder statesmen from the Revolution of 1911, He Ziyuan (1865-1941) and Qiu Fengjia (1864-1912), successfully established some Western-style schools, such as Yunandong Primary School (in 1885), Tongren School (1888) and Xingmin School (1903) in Guangdong Province in the late 19th century, symbolizing the birth of Chinas modern education.
Under such a great pressure, the Qing government carried out a series of reforms on education, and abolished the old-fashioned imperial examination system and then established modern schools across the nation in 1905. It was not until 1909 that the local civil service examination system was completely terminated; instead, the Western-style schools sprung up all over China, which fostered numerous talents for the Republic of China (1911-1949).

From 1949 -

Since the foundation of the PRC in 1949, the Chinese education system has been modeled on the Soviet Unions education system (a 'spoon-feeding education system), and a number of comprehensive universities were established one after another in China. Owing to many industrial and technical talents badly needing to set up a complete modern industrial system at the beginning of the foundation of the PRC, the former comprehensive universities were divided into vocational and technical colleges by the Chinese government; at the same time, the college entrance examination system had been established by 1955. It was canceled later owing to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) which was started by Mao Zedong (1893-1976). The Cultural Revolution wasted the talents of a whole generation, leaving millions of students with a lost opportunity to get educated. The intellects were not venerated by the society during the Cultural Revolution, and they met with severe persecution and their properties were confiscated; they were even branded the "stinking ninth category" (a term of abuse by ultra-Leftists for teachers and other educated people in the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, next to landlords, reactionaries and even spies).

It was not until 1977 that the college entrance examination was resumed by Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997). Though education for all-round development has been put forth since 1995, the learning pressure for the Chinese students has never been alleviated, and the number of continuation classes for them are increasing year by year. The college enrollment expanding policy has been implemented since the 1990s, enabling numerous students to realize their dream of going to college, however, the employment outlook looks gloomy owing to the higher pressure of competition.

The education fee has rocketed rapidly in recent years owing to the policy of industrialization of education, which is a heavy burden for the families from rural areas to bear. Great changes have taken place in the Chinese education system since 1990, and the Chinese central government has allowed private capital to enter into the field of education. A large number of private schools have sprung up across China in recent years, making the tendency of selecting schools for students more and more popular.

Modern Education System

The modern education system of China is composed of three parts: pre-school education, basic education and higher education. The Chinese government made a law for a free nine-year compulsory education (six years of primary education and three years of secondary education) on July 1, 1986, which established the requirements for attaining a universal education and guaranteed school-age children the right to receive at least nine years of education. Its considered to be a crime for the parents to deprive their children of this right in cities of China.

Schools in China are divided into four levels.

  • Primary school, for children ages 6 to 11, covers the first six years of their compulsory education.
  • After primary school, students continue on to junior middle school. In junior middle school students will complete grades 7, 8, and 9, as well as their compulsory education requirement.
  • If students choose tom continue with their education they will advance to senior middle school, the equivalent of high school in the United States, and finish grades 10, 11, and 12.
  • Afterward, they will have the option of attending university or entering the workforce.

Pre-School Education

As usual, the pre-school education starts at age three and ends at age six, and it was also known as a kindergarten education in China. A kindergarten is generally divided into three levels: Lower Kindergarten (Xiaoban) for three to four years old children, Middle Kindergarten (Zhongban) for four to five years old children and Upper Kindergarten (Daban) for five to six years old children.
The kindergarten provides three meals a day for children, where they spend most of their time playing indoor and outdoor games. Most kindergarten teachers are from childcare schools and are good at singing and dancing, and they are responsible for taking care of the children.

Basic Education

Basic education in China is composed of an elementary school education, a junior high school education, a senior high school education and a vocational school education. The junior high school education and the senior high school education together are called the nine-year compulsory education in China.

Elementary School Education

The elementary school education usually starts at age six and ends at age 12, and the pupils are absolutely tuition-free under the law of the nine-year compulsory education. As a result, they usually prefer to attend a primary school in their own village for convenience.

The elementary school system is slightly different between urban and rural areas of China. The elementary schools have six grades (from grade one to grade six) in urban areas and five grades (from grade one to grade five) in some rural areas. The entrance examination from elementary school to junior high school has been canceled since the 1990s in cities.
The curriculum includes Chinese, math, English, PE (physical education), music, drawing, science, and morality and ethics in primary schools. However, only Chinese, math and PE are set up in many rural areas.

Junior High School Education

The junior high school education usually starts at age 13 and ends at age 15. There are three ways for pupils to enter junior high school from elementary school in cities: by a computer aided allocation system, by selecting a school and by the proximity principle.

Computer aided allocation means the pupils are randomly distributed to a junior high school, which is comparatively equal for everybody. Most parents would rather select well-equipped schools (both in hard and soft infrastructures) for their children although they would need to pay some extra money. The proximity principle means the pupils prefer entering a junior high school in their neighborhood.

The curriculum of junior high school consists of Chinese, math, English, physics, chemistry, history, politics, geography, biology, PE, IT (information technology), music and drawing, which is also combined with practical work experience around the school. The students whose final grades of all subjects are above 60 are allowed to graduate from junior high school and are admitted to senior high school, and those who fail it will stay down at the same level for one year.

Senior High School Education

The senior high school education usually starts at age 16 and ends at age 18. The junior high school graduate students can either study in a senior high school or at a vocational school. Owing to the high tuition fees of senior high schools (usually ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 RMB each year), most students from rural areas choose to study in vocational schools so as to get a job as soon as they graduate.

Senior high schools are very popular among the cities of China, through which most parents hope their children will go to college. Usually, only those who get high scores in the (senior high school) enrollment examination can enter the key senior high schools. Senior high school is divided into three stages: elementary stage in Senior One, transitory stage in Senior Two and the college entrance exam preparation stage in Senior Three. The curriculum of senior high school consists of Chinese, math, English (Russian or Japanese in some urban areas), physics, chemistry, biology, geography, history, morality and ethics, PE, health and IT.

Bureaus of education at all levels in China stipulate that Saturday and Sunday are rest days for all the senior high schools. However, most senior high schools have their own countermeasures, and they make it a rule for students to self-study in the mornings and evenings and even on weekends.

The senior high students are overloaded with studies and a lack of rest, with the aim of passing the college entrance examination held in June each year.

Higher Education

The higher education (usually known as college education) usually starts when pupils are over 18, and its composed of tertiary vocational school (two or three years), a technological academy (three years) and an undergraduate school (four years), but only undergraduate school students will get their bachelors degree.

The undergraduate school students can continue their education through a graduate record examination, and those who pass it will study in a graduate school for three years and get their Masters degree. Those who get their Masters degree can apply to pursue a PhD degree, and it usually takes about three years to graduate.

Top 10 Universities of China

The Top 10 Universities of China have been well selected according to their comprehensive strength (both in hardware and software) by China Education Ministry in 2013, which are listed as follows:

  • Perking University ( No. 5, Yiheyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing)
  • Tsing-Hua University ( No.1, Qinghuayuan, Haidian District, Beijing)
  • Fudan University (No. 220, Handan Road. Shanghai)
  • Zhejiang University ( No.38 Zheda Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province)
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University ( No. 1954, Huashan Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai)
  • Nanjing University (No. 22 Hankou Road, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province)
  • Zhongshan University ( No. 135, Xingang Xi Road, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province)
  • Wuhan University (No. 16, Gejiashan, Wuchang District, Wuhan, Hubei Province)
  • Chinese University of Science and Technology (No. 96, Jinzhai Road, Hefei, Anhui Province)
  • Jilin University ( No.1505 Linyuan Road, Changchun, Jilin Province)
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