The School System

Information on the system of schooling in China, from pre-primary to higher education...

Primary and secondary education offer a number of different types of schools, whose structure varies among provinces. For instance, some regions offer five years of primary education, four years of middle school and three years of high school. There are a variety of secondary schools, such as agricultural, technical, and vocational secondary schools.

Students continue their studies in higher education at college or university. In 1985, tax-funded scholarships were phased out, and since then, students compete for scholarships, which are awarded on the basis of academic achievement.

Pre-primary Education

Pre-primary education in China includes nurseries, kindergartens and pre-schools, which are for children between two and six years old. Children can attend full time, part time, as boarders, or on an hourly basis.

The availability of pre-primary education varies between rural and urban areas. Urban areas have a variety of pre-primary facilities, including international kindergartens, but pre-primary education in rural areas is available on an ad hoc basis.

Pre-primary functions as both early education and childcare, and promotes physical, moral, intellectual and artistic development. Play is the basis of educational activities.

Tuition fees have to be paid for most pre-primaries, and costs depend on whether the school is run by a private or a government institution.

Primary Education

Primary education lasts either five or six years (Grades 1-6) and starts when a child is six or seven years old. Chinese Primary Schools are tuition-cost free with parents only required to pay a fee for books and other expenses such as meals, heating and transportation.

Subjects are divided into two categories: those which are organised by the state and those which are local. Subjects usually include Chinese language, mathematics and moral education, as well as science, history, geography, music and physical education. Foreign languages are also an option in senior primary school. Extra-curricular activities and sport form part of primary education in most schools. There are examinations for mathematics and Chinese language, and progress in other subjects is measured, rather than tested.

Learning is based on, "Learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be" and is related to daily experience. It includes social development and technological innovation.

Secondary Education

Secondary school is from Grades 7-12 and is sometimes split into junior middle school, which forms the last three years of compulsory education (Grades 7-9), and senior secondary or high school, which is the last three years of secondary education, (Grades 10-12). Senior secondary education is not compulsory. Those who do not wish to continue senior secondary education leading to University can switch to a vocational training course.

Subjects which are taught as part of secondary education include: biology, chemistry, Chinese, computing, English, fine arts, geography, history, mathematics, PE, physics, political science, and technology.

Over a third of the curriculum at junior middle school centres on Chinese and mathematics, whereas in high school, over half focuses on mathematics and science. Extra-curricular activities and sports also form part of secondary education.

Students' end of year performance is evaluated with an examination called Gaokao, which is the National Higher Education Entrance Examination.

After-school Education

After-school education forms a key part of education in Chinese schools, and typically offers students the chance to take part in cultural, educational, scientific and recreational activities. These activities can also include competitions, writing, handicrafts, camping, stage performances and exhibitions.


E-learning or online education courses are delivered via computer networks. This form of education is increasingly popular in China. E-learning has been widely implemented throughout all levels of education where physical attendance is difficult due to long distance or time zone differences.