Chinese Education System

8 minute read
Chinese Education System

Naval Ravikant once said, “A generation of auto-didacts, educated by the Internet and leveraged by technology, will eventually starve the industrial-education system”, which describes the need for a good education system in this tech addict century. The Chinese education system has witnessed an investment of about 14% of the total Chinese GDP showcasing the importance of education in China. This is the outcome of an initiative taken by the Chinese Government in 1986 to make education compulsory for every student. On an estimate, more than 99% of the student are recipients of basic 9-year education. 

Understanding the Chinese Education System

The Chinese education system is considered one of the most challenging and competitive ones in the world, even though it has a great reputation. Students are provided with education at different levels. Let’s understand this in detail with the help of a table below: 

LevelEducation Type Age (year)Grades Duration (year)
Primary SchoolPrimary6-121-66
Lower Secondary SchoolSecondary12-157-93
Senior Secondary SchoolSecondary15-1810-123
Short CyclePost Secondary 18-2013-142-3
Bachelor’s DegreeTertiary18-2213-164
Master’s Degree Tertiary22-2417-182-3
Doctoral DegreeTertiary24-2719-213

After looking at the table, you must have come up with the term ‘education type’. This implies that the entire Chinese education system has been divided into the following 4 basic categories: 

Primary Education 

Education in China starts as early as 1 to 3 years of age in kindergarten, pre-schoolers then move to Primary schools at the age of 6 or 7 years of age that lasts for about 6 years. Primary education under the Chinese education system is an important stage of a child’s learning journey. The language taught in the country is Mandarin Chinese, which is spoken by over 1 billion people around the world, about 1/5th of the global population. As your child is advancing from infancy, extra-curricular activities and education groups play an important role in emotional and social development. Young children are instructed in the following subjects:

  • Art & Colouring
  • Music
  • Chinese
  • Nature
  • Social Science
  • Moral Values
  • Foreign Language
  • Labour Studies
  • Numbering and Counting
  • Exercise

Students are expected to clear their final examinations that are structured and administered by the local authorities.

Chinese education system has also given importance to special education in the form of programs for slow learners and gifted children. Today, China has more than 1,500 schools for special education courses, over 1,000 vocational institutes for disabled students and more than 1,700 training centres for rehabilitating hearing-impaired children.

Also Read: 6 Different Ways to Say ‘Thank You’ in Chinese

Middle Education

This level of education lasts for about 3 years and like the primary level of the Chinese education system, the students are expected to successfully pass the final examinations in order to get their promotion certificate. There is a minimum requirement of marks in theoretical, practical as well as physical education program in order to pass the final tests. Individual schools are responsible for administering and structuring the examinations in accordance with the guidelines set by the local educational authorities. The examinations are designed to assess the student in subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Political Science, Foreign Language, etc. This phase marks the completion of the 9-year compulsory education system. 

Secondary Education 

From this level, the students are offered a choice between Vocational Senior Secondary classes that last for 4 years or General (academics) Senior Secondary classes that continue for 3 years. Those students who wish to proceed with general academics are required to pass the entrance test comprising of middle school syllabus. After this level, the students who wish to move towards Post-secondary Education, are required to give the National Higher Education Entrance Examination which is popularly known as the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE). 

Note: In Chinese, General Senior Secondary School is known as Gaozhong, Vocational Senior Secondary School is termed as Zhongzhuan and NCEE is called as Gaokao.

Vocational Education

Both high and post-secondary vocational education programmes are available. Subject and occupation-specific education and training are provided through vocational senior secondary schools. Vocational senior secondary school is very job-oriented, and graduates usually go straight into the workforce. However, it does provide certain opportunities for higher study, notably in technical and vocational fields. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has permitted graduates of vocational secondary schools to take the NCEE and gain admission to higher education programmes from the year 2000.

At the zhuanke () level, higher technical/vocational education is provided, which requires two or three years of full-time post-secondary study. Graduates of zhuanke-level higher vocational education programmes can receive a “benke” degree (Bachelor’s degree) certificate through an upgrading programme, but only in a restricted number of disciplines. Currently, vocational higher education institutes are managed at the provincial level.

Tertiary Education 

If you’re planning to study in China, you should know that there are numerous technical and general institutions offering higher education in different fields. The admission to these colleges depends upon the candidate’s performance in the entrance examination and the scores achieved in their secondary classes. Those with impeccable academic record are given the opportunity to win scholarships while some students may also be rewarded with exemption from entrance examinations by a method called Baosong in Chinese. Certain private colleges are also a part of the NCEE examinations and admit students who can afford the tuition fee. However, this level of the Chinese education system is quite competitive and challenging. 

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History of Chinese Education System

Even though it may seem impossible, China has the oldest formal education system in the world, which dates back about two millennia. According to estimates, the imperial education and examination system in China was established as early as the Han era (206 BCE to 220 CE). It is strongly built on meritocratic values, which continue to this day in Chinese education. China’s education system is a reflection of the nation’s desire to identify the most effective and equitable method of evaluating students’ academic talents given its centuries-long economic and political expansion.

The (in)famous Gaokao, or National College Entrance Examination, which serves as the only criterion for a student’s eligibility to enrol in institutions, is one of the longest-lasting remnants of the imperial educational tradition. Nine million pupils take the Gaokao on June 7 and 8. In the United States, a student’s college application includes several components, such as a transcript, personal essays, SAT/ACT scores, and recommendation letters. In China, however, the sole thing that determines a student’s eligibility to enrol in university is their Gaokao score. The more prestigious the university they can attend depends on how well they perform. Given that the Gaokao is the conclusion of the previous twelve years of study for the majority of Chinese secondary school students, this may sound incredibly stressful and scary.

International Education in China

China has some of the best international schools with excellent reputation in Shanghai, Beijing and other prominent destinations in China. There are various language programs in English, German, French, Spanish, etc. Foreign students are growing in the country making it the fifth largest nation in the world for hosting incoming students. With more than 200 universities worldwide, admissions for international students is a much easier process than for domestic students, even for the Chinese Ivy League universities like Tsinghua University, Peking University, Zhejiang University, Fudan University, etc. Generally, if students need to get enrolled in a regular academic program in Chinese university require to have a certain of Chinese-language competency, but a growing number of institutions in the country are starting to offer programs that are entirely taught in English.

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Pros and cons of the Chinese Education System


  • In general, education in China is less expensive than in many other developed nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. This may make a major impact for international students seeking higher education because the overall money necessary to study in China is cheaper.
  • In China, the books you’ll need to finish your studies will most likely be less expensive than in other nations. The quantity of money you spend will be significantly reduced as a result of this.
  • The Chinese education system instills an extraordinary level of respect for instructors in both young children and older pupils, which is a huge positive of the Chinese education system. This is based on Chinese culture from the past. Students are seen looking up at their professors and paying close attention to what they are saying. So much so that many students build lifelong ties with their elementary school instructors, even years after they have graduated.


  • The significant dependence on tests will seem like a major adjustment for anyone travelling to China for school from a western country. Students are frequently needed to pass an entrance exam in order to be admitted to institutions. Students are expected to learn what they are taught and sit for tests from elementary school through college. 
  • In most schools, each class will include 30 to 50 kids, compared to a limit of 20 in countries like the United States. This implies that teachers don’t have the time or resources to provide specialised instruction, and pupils are expected to study on their own. Between the teacher and the pupils, there is no one-on-one interaction.
  • The Chinese Educational System has a disadvantage in that most elementary classrooms have only one instructor who stays with the kids for years. In other nations, pupils are taught by a variety of professors who specialize in different subjects.

Difference Between Education System In India And China

Credits: The Infographic India

The Chinese education system is a combination of ancient traditions and western models with large schools and a more general education. The demand for international schools in mainland China is so high that the spots fill up quickly leading to long waiting lists. With one of the strongest economies in the world, Chinese industries are not just getting closer to the technological frontier in areas such as electronics, automobiles, aviation, machinery, high-speed railways, but also emerging areas such as renewable energy, advanced nuclear energy, big data, AI, robotics, e-commerce, telecommunication technologies, etc. So, what are you waiting for? Reach out to our experts at Leverage Edu, who can help you choose the best career to pursue according to our field of interest. Reach us out at 1800 57 2000

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