Education in China


Brief Introduction

As an ancient civilization with a history of 5,000 years, China has a tradition to attach great importance to its education since ancient times. Both the thought of Confucianism and the Imperial Examination System had produced a great influence on Chinese education. In modern times, China has given top priority to the development of science and education when implementing the strategy of boosting the nation through science and education. The contemporary international exchange and cooperation have accelerated China’s education development. Chinese education has not only played an important role in the inheritance and development of Chinese culture, but also made great contributions to the world civilization.


  • Status quo

At present, China’s educational structure mainly includes pre-school education, compulsory education, special education, senior high school education, higher education, adult training and literacy education, private education.

Pre-school education refers to the process for children between aged 3 and 5 years old in kindergartens.

Compulsory education is also known as free education. In China, primary schools and junior high schools are compulsory, which usually last nine years (six years of primary school and three years of junior high school). Besides of compulsory education, there exist some other school systems.

There are special education schools, which are the backbone of China’s special education system. Ordinary classes, together with ad hoc classes, family tutoring and community education are important supplementary parts of China’s special education system.

Senior high school education, which includes ordinary high schools, general secondary schools, adult secondary schools, vocational high schools and technical schools, is an important link in the national education system.

Higher education includes academic and non-academic education, which is generally in the form of full-time and part-time schooling. Besides, China’s higher education is divided into specialized education, undergraduate education and postgraduate education.

Unlike full-time general education, adult training aims to provide further education to employees at work through professional training and general education. Anti-literacy education refers to literacy education for illiterate and under-literate persons, with initial reading, writing and numeracy

Private education is a form of education relative to public education, which refers to social organizations or individuals other than state institutions, using non-state financial funds to organize activities in schools and other educational institutions.


  • Brief introduction of Chinese education

In 2018, there are 518,800 schools at all levels, 276 million students and 16.7 million full-time teachers in China. Among them, there are 2,940 institutions of higher education with a total of 38.33 million students, 24,300 senior high school schools with 39.35 million students, 52,000 junior high schools with 46.53 million students, and 161, 800 primary schools with 103.39 million students, and 266,700 kindergartens with 46.56 million children.

In terms of investment, the total investment in China’s education is 4,614.3 billion yuan, and the state’s financial education expenditure is 3,699.6 billion yuan, accounting for 4.11 percent of the nation’s GDP.

1. Scale of private schools

There are a total of 183,500 private schools at all levels in China, including 750 private colleges and universities, 1,993 private secondary vocational schools, 3,216 private high schools, 5,462 private junior high schools, 6,179 private primary schools and 165,800 private kindergartens.

2. Scale of higher education

China has 2,940 higher education schools, including 2,663 general colleges and 277 adult institutions of higher learning. There are 389,500 doctoral students, 2.3417 million master’s students, 16.9733 million general undergraduates, 11.337 million students of professional education and 5.9099 million students of adult education.

There are 2.4875 million faculty and staff in general colleges and universities, and 1.6728 million full-time teachers. The ratio of students in general colleges and universities is 17.56:1, of which 17.42:1 is in undergraduate colleges and 17.89:1 in higher vocational (specialty) colleges.


  • International education cooperation and exchange

Since 2000, China has established high-level people-to-people exchange mechanisms with Russia (November 2000), the United States (May 2010), the United Kingdom (April 2012), the Europe Union (April 2012), France (September 2014), Indonesia (May 2015), South Africa (April 2017) and Germany (May 2017). Contents of collaborations range from education, science and technology, culture, health, sports, radio and television, media, film, tourism, women, youths and archives.

1. Study abroad from both Sides

From 1978 to 2018, 5.86 million Chinese students studied abroad and 3.65 million returned to China. According to statistics, 662,100 Chinese students studied abroad in 2018, 519,400 of them returned home. In the same year, 492,200 foreign students studied in China and among them  258,100 foreigners received academic education in China.

2. Chinese-foreign cooperation in running schools

As of June 2019, a total of 2,431 Chinese-foreign cooperative institutions and programs had been established with the approval of Chinese authorities, of which about 90% are in the higher education sector.About 550,000 students are studying in these colleges and universities. More than 2 million students have so far graduated.

3. Confucius institutes

By September 30, 2019, a total of 535 Confucius institutes and 1,134 Confucius classrooms have been established in 158 countries (regions) around the world. There are 127 Confucius institutes and 113 Confucius classrooms in 36 countries in Asia, 61 Confucius institutes and 44 Confucius classrooms in Arica’s 46 countries, 184 Confucius institutes and 323 Confucius classrooms in 43 countries in Europe, 143 Confucius institutes and 558 Confucius classrooms in 26 countries in the Americas,and 20 Confucius institutes and 96 Confucius classrooms in seven countries in Oceania.


  • Prospects of Chinese education

The quality of education in China is improving in an all-round way, which is crucial to realize modernization in the future. Among the main tasks are: to enhance students’ sense of social responsibility, innovation entrepreneurship and practical ability, to encourage the development of inclusive kindergartens, to promote the balanced development of compulsory education, to popularize senior high school education, to accelerate the development of modern vocational education, to promote the transformation of undergraduate colleges and universities to applied higher education, and to promote the construction of world-class universities and first-class disciplines in an integrated manner,to improve the teaching level and innovation ability of colleges and universities, to speed up the construction of learning-oriented society and to promote educational equity.

There are parallel initiatives to achieve the above objective: strengthening the construction of teachers’ ranks, deepening the reform of the examination and admission system, improving the mechanism of investment in education, promoting and regulating the development of private education, promoting educational informationization, strengthening international cooperation and deepening the reform of innovation and entrepreneurship education.

Note: The above-mentioned statistics do not include the data of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan Province. Some of the data are not equal to the total of the sub-items due to rounding reasons.

Note: The data was excerpted from China Profile, China Education Profile of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, 2018 National Statistical Bulletin on the Development of Education, etc.

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