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Primary and secondary education in China

Updated: Dec 12, 2017 Print

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.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the universalization of compulsory education in rural, poor and minority areas. In 1987, the former State Education Commission (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, Ministry of Education (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 who graduate 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 and school year 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.

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