Education in China

A good education is greatly prized in China and there are several schooling options available to both locals and expats.

The education system in China is similar in structure to that used in Western nations like the United States. Elementary School is followed by Junior High and Senior High with the option of progressing to do BA/MA level degrees and doctorates.

In China education is compulsorily and free from the ages of 6-15. If parents wish their children to enter education before this then they can send them to Kingergarden from the age of 2.

Senior High School is optionally attended by those students aged 15 -18 who wish to progress to higher education. In order to be accepted at Senior High School the student must pass a standardised test towards the end of Junior High.

Those who do not take or fail to pass the standardised test can be prepared for a trade in one of the huge range of vocational, technical and agricultural schools scattered across the country.

In 1985 free higher education in China was abolished, although tuition fees are often considerably lower than in western universities and room and board is commonly provided. A dormitory room can be shared by up to 7 people and food is usually consumed in a communal dining hall. Foreign students are also expected to take out private health insurance.  Student’s hoping to attend university must first sit an exam. The National University Entrance Examination determines what kind of university a student will be admitted to. Poor scoring students are rarely accepted at public universities.

Although the amount of resources being allocated to universities is increasing there is a continuing disparity between the amounts of students in lower and higher level education.

For all educational levels there are public, private and international institutions to choose from. The vast majority of international schools are private and can therefore be relatively to extremely expensive. Waiting lists for international schools can also be long and applications should be submitted by March if a child is to attend school in the next academic year. In return for their high fees international schools offer a varied education which is usually of a high standard. Generally international schools also provide more extra-curricular activities and more emphasis is placed on sport and art than in public schools.

Although the language barrier can be daunting an increasing amount of expats are sending their children to public schools. Younger children are proven to pick up languages quickly through constant exposure and this can be a fantastic way of acclimatising them. However, as all lessons are conducted completely in Mandarin older children who have little grasp of the language are often sent to the bottom of the grade system.

Public schools are legally required to accept foreign students if their parents are Chinese residents and class sizes range from 20 to 30 students. Although the tuition isn’t free the amount to be paid is minimal compared to the enormous fees charged by most international schools.

Students must be registered by their parents and the process is primarily in Chinese. When registering a child the parent is required to bring their work/residence permits, the child’s passport and a China-issued health form.

Higher education in China is changing and improving all the time. The degree system used in China is almost identical to that used in the UK, but a Chinese degree isn’t always recognised in Western nations. Local and expat students can work to achieve Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral qualifications. A foreign student attempting to achieve a place at a Chinese university must have acquired at least a grade of 6 in the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (Chinese Proficiency Test).

Unless the potential student comes to China on an exchange programme applications must be sent directly to the chosen university.