Overview of education in China


China education is the largest education system in the world. On June 2016, there were 9.4 million students taking the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gao Kao) in China. Investment in education accounts for about 4% of total GDP in China. In 1986, the Chinese government passed a compulsory education law, making nine years of education mandatory for all Chinese children. Today, the Ministry of Education estimates that above 99 percent of the school-age children have received universal nine-year basic education.

On March 2017, Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China announced a total of 442,773 international students were studying in China in 2016. International students have enrolled in over 829 higher education institutions in China. China has a long history of providing education to international students studying in high schools and universities in China. Over the past few years, the number of international students who study abroad in China has significantly increased every year.

The higher education sector has growth as well. China is seeking to improve the quality of education through a major effort at curriculum reform. China has increased the proportion of its college-age population in higher education to over 20 percent now from 1.4 percent in 1978.

China has a consistent teacher development system. Teaching has historically been and remains today a highly respected profession in China. Teachers have strong preparation in their subject matter and prospective teachers spend a great deal of time observing the classrooms of experienced teachers, often in schools attached to their universities. Once teachers are employed in school, there is a system of induction and continuous professional development in which groups of teachers work together with master teachers on lesson plans and improvement.

Pre-school Education in China

Pre-school education is an important component of education cause in China. In urban areas, pre-school education is mainly kindergartens of 1 to 3 years, which could be full time, part-time, boarding or hour-reckoned. In rural areas, pre-school education is mainly nursery classes and seasonal kindergartens in addition. In the aging, minority, remote and poor areas, besides the normal preschool education, there are irregular education with various forms such as children activity centers, game groups, mobile aid centers, and mobile service called “caravan”.

Following the policy of providing per-schooling education by the state, collective bodies, citizens and individuals and developing through multiple channels in various forms, pre-school education in China has made significant progress. In 2015, there were 223,683 kindergartens with an enrollment of 42,648,284 young children. Per-school education has been generally universalized in big and middle-sized cities.

During recent years, pre-school education in the mass rural areas, particularly in remote, poor and minority areas, has developed rapidly. The kindergartens combine childcare with teaching so that the children will develop physically, morally, intellectually and aesthetically in a harmonious way to get ready for their formal school education. The educational activities conducted in kindergartens constitute a systematic, purposeful and multi-faceted process of education conductive to lively, invigorating and sound development of children. With playing games as the main part of educational activities in kindergartens, a good environment should be created conducive to the education with conditions and opportunities offered to children to live and display their expressiveness.

To enhance the management and guidance of kindergartens, the state has formulated a serious of regulations including “Regulations on The Management of Kindergartens” and the “Regulations on Kindergarten Work” placing the management of kindergartens on scientifically sound and institutionalized basis. The state has also formulated regulations and rules concerning the qualification of kindergarten teachers and the assessment of their performance. At present, the normal schools devoted to the training of kindergarten teachers and the discipline of pre-school education have made big stride and the training system of pre-school teachers at considerable scale has taken shape.

Primary and Secondary Education in China

In China, primary and secondary education takes 12 years to complete, divided into primary, junior secondary and senior secondary stages. Primary education lasts either 5 or 6 years with the former accounting for 35% of the total enrollment and the latter 65% of the total enrollment. At junior secondary stage, most have 3 years schooling with a tiny part of 4 years. Almost 98% of students are enrolled in the former schools. The 9-year schooling in primary and junior secondary schools pertains to compulsory education. General senior secondary education lasts 3 years.

Implementation of 9-year Compulsory Education

Since the promulgation of the “Compulsory Education Law of the People’s Republic of China” in 1986, the 9-year compulsory education has been implemented by governments at various levels and made significant progress. According to the statistics of 2015, the net enrollment rate of primary school age children above 99%, and the proportion of primary school graduates continuing their study in junior secondary schools (including vocational ones) reached above 99% as well. In the urban areas of large cities and economically developed coast areas, the universalization of senior secondary education has been launched. In 2015, there were altogether 190,525 primary schools with an enrollment of 96,921,831 students and there were total 78,421 secondary education schools with an enrollment of 83,833,441 students in China.

Chinese government attaches great importance to the universalization of compulsory education in rural, poor and minority areas. In 1987, the former SEDC and the ministry of Finance jointly issued the “Opinion on Some Issues Concerning the Reform of Administration of Basic education in rural Areas”. At present, basic education is provided by the governments at the county, township and administrative villages levels with the administrative power assumed by county and township governments and with major decision made by the county governments. Efforts are made to integrate the development of education and the upgrading of quality of labor force with the development of the local economy and the advancement of culture and ethical and living standard of the people. As a result, the development of rural education and local economy have been promoted.

School Year of Primary and Secondary School in China

The school year of primary and secondary school is divided into two semesters. The school year of primary schools comprises 38 weeks of teaching sessions with an additional week in reserve and 13 weeks for holidays and vacations. The school year for junior secondary schools comprises 39 weeks for teaching with an additional week in reserve and 12 weeks for holidays and vocations. The school year for senior secondary schools comprises 40 weeks of teaching with one or two weeks in reserve and 10 to 11 weeks for holidays and vocations. A five-day week has been implemented in primary and secondary schools.

In the autumn of 1993, primary and junior secondary schools began to implement the “Teaching Scheme (Curriculum) for Full-time Primary and Secondary Schools (Pilot)”, and this scheme includes the arrangement of subjects and syllabuses of them. According to the scheme, subjects are divided into two categories: state-arranged subjects and locally-arranged subjects, with the latter determined by the authorities of provincial-level governments in the light of local realities and needs.

The current curriculum of senior secondary schools consists of two parts: subjects courses and activities. Subjects taught in senior secondary schools are divided into obligatory ones and optional ones. Activities include out-class activities and practice activities.

In 1999, MOE began to design the new basic education curriculum system for the 21st century. Any child reaching 6 years of age should enter the primary school and in places where conditions are not available, the age for a child to enter a primary school could be postponed to 7 years old. In areas where junior secondary education has been basically universalized, all primary school graduates should enter nearby junior secondary schools, without sitting for any entrance examinations. However, those gradates from junior secondary schools seeking to continue their education in senior secondary schools have to sit for and pass locally organized entrance examinations before admission.

Throughout compulsory education, students are required to take end-of-term examinations and tests or check-ups at the end of each semester, school year of before graduation. In primary schools, the Chinese language and mathematics are the required examination subjects for graduation, while the other subjects are checkup subjects. In secondary schools, the graduation examination subjects are determined within the scope of the general subjects taught in the graduating class set by the state, while the students’ performance in other subjects are only checked up

After-School Education in China

After-school education plays an important role in the all-round development of primary and secondary school students. Under the cooperative administration of departments in charge of education, culture, physics, worker’s union, the Communist Youth League, Committee for Women’s and Children’s Work and science and technology, after-school education is conducted by joint efforts of the concerning central departments. In 1986, the First national Conference on After-school Education was convened and the Second One in 1991, and consequently a number of regulations on after-school education have been formulated, providing guidance to such work.

After-school education always adheres to the policy of integration of schools, the society and families, and strive to give full scope to the unique educational role of after-school activities. After school, children may take part in the scientific, cultural, and recreational activities organized by children’s palaces, children’s clubs, scientific and technological centers for teenagers, and other similar institutions. After-school education is conducted through rich and colorful extracurricular activities organized in the light of the age and interests of school children, such as stage performances, competitions of aircraft, ship and motor vehicle models, exhibitions of small inventions and handicraft making, literary writing, summer and winter camping and so on, to mould the students’ temperament and temper their willpower.

Development of Teaching Materials

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the government began to pay great attention to the preparation and production of school textbooks and other teaching materials. In 1950, the Ministry of Education formulated curricular standards for primary schools. Afterwards, in 1956, 1963, 1978 and 1986, four conservative sets of syllabuses of subjects taught in primary and secondary and secondary schools were formulated, and eight sets of school textbooks were complied and published by the People’s Education Press for nationwide use in compliance with the requirements set in these syllabuses.

In 1992, syllabuses of various subjects taught in full-time primary and secondary schools were drawn up under the guidance of the former SEDC to provide guidance for teaching and complying the textbooks used in primary and secondary schools within the 9-year compulsory education. The new textbooks for regular senior secondary education linking the 9-year compulsory education which was implemented in 1993 in under pilot exercise in Shanxi Province, Jiangxi Province and Tianjin.

As China is a vast country with significant regional disparities in economics, and social development, it is quite understandable that the conditions of different schools vary a deal lot, and consequently it is desirable to develop multiple sets of textbooks at various levels to meet the needs of different localities and with their own specific characteristics and styles. For this reason, in 1986, the former SEDC adopted a policy of diversifying the preparation and production of school textbooks in the whole country under the condition that unified basic requirements must the complied with. In areas where conditions permit, regional educational departments, educational institutions, experts, scholars and individual teachers are encouraged to compile textbooks for subjects taught in primary and junior secondary schools in compliance with the basic requirements set forth in the syllabuses of 9-year compulsory education schooling.

As a result, different sets of textbooks will compete with each other bringing a radical change to the old practice in which only one set of textbooks was used throughout the whole country and promoting the prosperous development of school textbooks. In addition, a lot of reference and manuals for teachers, illustrated booklets, atlas for school use, wall charts, slides and audio-visual materials for classroom instruction or dong homework have been produced to complement and supplement the textbooks. A number of items of computer software developed for school use have been produced. The textbooks for special education have been compiled (by the state Education Commission) to meet the needs of special education development. Many supplementary teaching materials with local color and flavor have been produced in many localities to meet the needs of local economic and cultural development.

To ensure the quality of textbooks and other teaching materials produced, a system of examination and approval of textbooks has been established in China. All textbooks for obligatory subjects taught in primary and secondary schools have to be examined and approved by the State Textbooks examination and Approval Committee before publication in terms of ideological content, scientific spirit and adaptability to classroom instruction. The textbooks approved are allowed to be used by the local educational departments. However, supplementary teaching materials with local figures are to be examined and approved by a provincial-level School Textbook Examination and Approval Committee and allowed to be used within the province concerned.



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