China Education System

General Introduction to Chinese Education

China educationEducation in the People's Republic of China is a state-run system of public education run by the Ministry of Education. All citizens must attend school for at least nine years.

The government provides primary education for six years, starting at age six or seven, followed by six years of secondary education for ages 12 to 18. Some provinces may have five years of primary school but four years for middle school. There are three years of middle school and three years of high school.

The Ministry of Education reported a 99 percent attendance rate for primary school and an 80 percent rate for both primary and middle schools.[citation needed] In 1985, the government abolished tax-funded higher education, requiring university applicants to compete for scholarships based on academic ability.

In the early 1980s the government allowed the establishment of the first private schools. The population has had on average only 6.2 years of schooling, but in 1986 the government set the goal of nine years of compulsory education for students by the year 2000.

Chinese Education System

Primary School(6-12 years old)

China educationThe development of primary education in so vast a country as China has been a formidable accomplishment. In contrast to the 20 percent enrollment rate before 1949, in 1985 about 96 percent of primary school age children were enrolled in approximately 832,300 primary schools. This enrollment figure compared favorably with the record figures of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when enrollment standards were more egalitarian. In 1985 the World Bank estimated that enrollments in primary schools would decrease from 136 million in 1983 to 95 million in the late 1990s and that the decreased enrollment would reduce the number of teachers needed. Qualified teachers, however, would continue to be in demand. Under the Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education, primary schools were to be tuition-free and reasonably located for the convenience of children attending them; students would attend primary schools in their neighborhoods or villages. Parents paid a small fee per term for books and other expenses such as transportation, food, and heating. Previously, fees were not considered a deterrent to attendance, although some parents felt even these minor costs were more than they could afford. Under the education reform, students from poor families received stipends, and state enterprises, institutions, and other sectors of society were encouraged to establish their own schools. A major concern was that scarce resources be conserved without causing enrollment to fall and without weakening of the better schools. In particular, local governments were told not to pursue middle-school education blindly while primary school education was still developing, or to wrest money, teaching staff, and materials from primary schools.

Junior Middle School(12-15 years old)

China educationSecondary education in China has a complicated history. In the early 1960s, education planners followed a policy called "walking on two legs," which established both regular academic schools and separate technical schools for vocational training. The rapid expansion of secondary education during the Cultural Revolution created serious problems; because resources were spread too thinly, educational quality declined. Further, this expansion was limited to regular secondary schools; technical schools were closed during the Cultural Revolution because they were viewed as an attempt to provide inferior education to children of worker and peasant families. In the late 1970s, government and party representatives criticized what they termed the "unitary" approach of the 1960s, arguing that it ignored the need for two kinds of graduates: those with an academic education (college preparatory) and those with specialized technical education (vocational). Beginning in 1976 with the renewed emphasis on technical training, technical schools reopened, and their enrollments increased.

Senior Middle School(15-18 years old)

China educationThe "Law on Vocational Education" was issued in 1996. Vocational education embraces higher vocational schools, secondary skill schools, vestibule schools, vocational high schools, job-finding centers and other adult skill and social training institutes. To enable vocational education to better accommodate the demands of economic re-structuring and urbanization, in recent years the government has remodeled vocational education, oriented towards obtaining employment, and focusing on two major vocational education projects to meet society's ever more acute demand for high quality, skilled workers. These are cultivating skilled workers urgently needed in modern manufacture and service industries; and training rural laborers moving to urban areas. To accelerate vocational education in western areas, the Central Government has used government bonds to build 186 vocational education centers in impoverished western area counties. Both regular and vocational secondary schools sought to serve modernization needs. A number of technical and "skilled-worker" training schools reopened after the Cultural Revolution, and an effort was made to provide exposure to vocational subjects in general secondary schools (by offering courses in industry, services, business, and agriculture). By 1985 there were almost 3 million vocational and technical students.

University or Higher School(18-22 years old)

China educationBy the end of 2004, China had 2,236 schools of Higher Learning, with over 20 million students; the gross rate of enrollment in schools of higher learning reached 19 percent. Postgraduate education is the fastest growing sector, with 24.1 percent more students recruited and 25.9 percent more researchers than the year before. This enrollment growth indicates that China has entered the stage of popular education. The UNESCO world higher education report of June 2003 pointed out that the student population of China's schools of higher learning had doubled in a very short period of time, and was the world's largest.

Particular attention has been paid to improving systems in recent reforms. Many industrial multiversities and specialist colleges have been established, strengthening some incomplete subjects and establishing new specialties, e.g., automation, nuclear power, energy resources, oceanography, nuclear physics, computer science, polymer chemistry, polymer physics, radiochemistry, physical chemistry and biophysics. A project for creating 100 world class universities began in 1993, which has merged 708 schools of higher learning into 302 universities. Merging schools of higher learning has produced far-reaching reform of higher education management, optimizing of educational resources allocation, and further improving teaching quality and school standards. More than 30 universities have received help from a special national fund to support their attainment of world elite class.

Between 1999 and 2003, enrollment in higher education increased from 1.6 million to 3.82 million. In 2004, the total enrollment in ordinary schools of higher learning was 4.473 million, 651,000 more than in 2003. Schools of higher learning and research institutes enrolled 326,000 postgraduate students, 57,000 more than the previous year. The contribution to China's economic construction and social development made by research in the higher education sector is becoming ever more evident. By strengthening cooperation among their production, teaching and research, schools of higher learning are speeding up the process in turning sci-tech research results into products, giving rise to many new and hi-tech enterprises and important innovations. Forty-three national university sci-tech parks have been started or approved, some of which have become important bases for commercializing research.