There are many similarities between schools in China and schools elsewhere, whether you're thinking of going to school in China or just curious to know more. Education is required and free for Chinese citizens age 6 to 15 though parents must pay small fees for books and uniforms. Chinese children all get a primary and middle school public education. Each class averages 35 students. Parents must pay for public high school though the majority of families in cities can afford the modest fees after middle school. In rural parts of China, many students stop their education at age 15. There are a growing number of private schools in China for wealthy Chinese as well as dozens of international private schools. Although Chinese public schools are required by law to accept children of legal foreign residents, most international schools will only accept Chinese who hold a foreign passport. There are over 70 schools approved by China’s Ministry of Education to provide foreign instruction. Foreigners must pay a yearly tuition which varies but starts at about 28,000RMB unlike local children. Chinese students begin preparing for the competitive 高考 (gaokao, National University Entrance Examinations) in high school. Seniors take this Chinese version of the SAT in the summer. 

Schools in China

Chinese students attend classes five or six days a week from early morning (about 7am) to early evening (4pm or later). Many schools hold required morning classes in science and math on Saturdays. Many students also attend 補習班 (buxiban), or cram school, in the evening and on weekends.  These schools offer additional Chinese, English, science and math classes and one-on-one tutoring much like tutoring in the West. Students take Chinese, English, history, literature, music, art and physical education aside from math and science. China’s teaching methodology differs from Western education methodology. Rote memorization and a focus on math, science, and Chinese studies along with extensive test prep for middle school, junior high school, high school and college entrance exams are standard practice. Although these activities are not as extensive as those found in international schools and schools in the West, schools in China have after school activities, like sports and music lessons. Competition among schools is more like an intramural team sports system verses a competitive style system while team sports are becoming more popular. Schools in China have a break lasting for several days or a week during China’s national holiday in the beginning of October. Depending on the lunar calendar, students have one to three weeks off during spring festival in mid-January or mid-February. The next break is for China’s labor holiday, which occurs during the first few days of May. Finally, students have a summer vacation which is much shorter than in the US. Summer vacation typically begins in mid-July though some schools start their vacations in June. The vacation lasts for approximately one month. Chinese public schools are required by law to accept children of legal foreign residents while most international schools will only accept Chinese students who hold a foreign passport.