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China has attached great importance to education since the ancient time that so many ideologists and educationists have appeared successively. Now, China has set up a modern education system with government as the major investor so that every person is allowed to gain knowledge legally. Respecting teachers and valuing education have been a tradition of Chinese people since ancient times. There were beginnings of education as early as the eras of Yao, Shun and Yu in the Prehistoric Times (1.7 million years ago - 21st century BC).

In the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC), the development of Chinese characters entered a more advanced stage, and some books made of heavy materials appeared. In this situation, formal schools emerged with the names like 'Xiao' (school), 'Xue' (study) and 'Daxue' (higher school). Teachers then were all government officials and students were all children of the nobility, so that was the earliest 'Guan Xue' (official education). The content of the education included etiquettes, archery, music, writing and mathematics, which laid a foundation for the further prosperity of the ancient education.

In the golden era of the slavery society-Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC-771 BC), the six classical arts-rites, music, archery, riding, writing and mathematics became the content of the education. At that time, the government paid equal attention to cultivating the students in every aspect, including thoughts, morals, practical skills, culture, etiquettes and inner feeling. That kind of teaching methods had far-reaching influence on the form of the traditional Chinese education.

In the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods, 'Guan Xue' began to decline and private school rose in importance. Later, the private schools were open to the public, and many scholars graduated such as Confucius (551 BC-479 BC), Mo-tse (479 BC-318 BC), Mencius (372 BC-289 BC) and Hsun-tzu (Xunzi) (313 BC-238 BC).

In the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), the government attached great importance to those knowledgeable people and encouraged the people to write and copy books, which made the education unprecedentedly prosperous. The schools then were divided into official and private ones, and official schools were subdivided into local and central. Emperor Wudi started the highest grade official school-the Great Academy, which was set up in the northwestern suburban area of the capital city Chang'an (Xian). The teaching materials of the official schools were classical books of Confucius. Students who were admitted to the Great Academy were destined for careers in the civil service after they passed the exams and were competitively selected for various positions. Private schools were much more widespread than official schools, most of which mainly taught students to recognize and write Chinese characters, similar to present day elementary schools.

In the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) Dynasties, the official and private schools were both further developed with the establishment and development of the Imperial Exam System. In the end of the Tang Dynasty, private academies (shuyuan) appeared out of the private schools. Since the Song Dynasty (1127-1279), China was ruled by different ethnic groups one after another, and all the ethnic groups desired to cultivate ruling brains of their own nations. Wars broke out frequently at that time and official schools couldn't easily operate, so private schools flourished.

On October 1st of 1949, the People's Republic of China was established, and the education of China entered a new era. Along with the need for social development, the Chinese government has from that time given priority to the development of education, implementing a policy of invigorating the country through science, technology and education. At the same time, the Chinese government has been carrying out education reforms based on the principle that education should be geared to the needs of modernization and the world and of the future. The Chinese government increases input to science, technology and education year by year. Through uninterrupted efforts in the past five decades, China has made great progress in education. Nine years of compulsory education (from primary school to junior middle school) has been implemented nationwide. Higher education, occupational and polytechnic education, diversified adult education and ethics education have been developed rapidly.

China has set up an education system with government as the major investor and social partners as co-investors. In the current stage, local government is playing a key role in compulsory education, while central and provincial governments are dominant in higher education. The national Ministry of Education is the supreme education administrative body in China, and is responsible for carrying out the relevant laws, regulations, guidelines and policies, activating and guiding education reforms and integrating and coordinating educational initiatives and programs nationwide.

In addition, the Chinese government pays attention to guarantee citizens' rights to get education especially the right of the minorities, women and disabled people, by making appropriate laws. To assist needy students, the Chinese government adopted a series of measures to prevent them from dropping out from education, including scholarships, subsidies, student loans and tuition fee reduction.

 Education System

Education Phase
Length of Schooling
Age Range
Pre-school Education
without specific regulations
3-5 years old
Private individuals
Elementary Education
(primary school)
6 years
6-11 years old
local government
Secondary Education
(junior middle school,
senior middle school,
vocational school,
technical secondary school
6 years (3 years for junior middle school,
and then 3 years for senior middle school
vocational school or
technical secondary school
12-17 years old
local government
Tertiary Education
(junior college ,college,
3 years for junior college
4 years for a bachelor's degree, and then
2-3 years for a master's degree in a college or university
18-26 years old or even older
provincial and central government
Continuing Education
(technical training schools and centers)

 International Exchange and Cooperation
Since the implementation of the reform and opening up policy in 1978, China made big strides in foreign exchange and cooperation in the education sector. Over nearly 30 years, hundreds of thousands of Chinese students have studied abroad in over 100 foreign countries. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of foreign students from over 160 countries have come to China to learn Chinese culture. Also, most foreign countries and China exchange teachers and experts to enhance the science, technology and culture communications between each other.

Meanwhile, most foreign and international organizations have contributed aid for China's education, including UNESCO, the Children Foundation of UN, Population Foundation UN, UNDP (United Nations Development Program), the World Bank and so on. The World Bank has provided China with a loan totaling nearly US$1.5 billion to help to develop education, while other international organizations have also offered China financial aid of over US$100 million.

I want to say
  • Replynelson ochieng
    2016/9/22 14:21:00

    what are the features in chinese education system that kenya could adopt if we want to be industrialised by the year 2030?

  • ReplySali
    2014/6/5 7:02:00

    Hey!your article is so interesting since it gives me some information that i need about China's education system. Please need some detailed in formation about Confucius educational thoughts, especially his teaching and learning methods.thanks

    • Jushan :2014/6/6 21:23:00

      Confucius lived in a time, when the etiquette and music collapsed, which implied the ethics and moralities of society were in decline Therefore, he put forward a series of norms, which developed into Confucianism later.

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    2014/4/20 15:37:00

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  • Replyanis
    2013/3/19 22:51:00

    I want to study enginering in china provide me list & address of universities alongwith their charges & residential & hostel charges

    • David :2013/3/20 18:38:00

      many universities in China have engineering major, so you'd better decide which one you want to go first. i suggest the universities in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xian.

  • Replyocloosamuel
    2012/8/18 5:53:00

    wants to study medicine in china.

    • Polly :2012/8/19 20:36:00

      you need to get enrolled by a Chinese university first, and then apply a student visa.

    • Phoenix :2013/1/17 10:18:00

      Hey! Does anyone know if University or college are optional?!x

    • Candy :2013/1/17 18:58:00

      to Phoenixwhat do you mean by optional?of course you can choose a university that suits you best.

    • NAWAZ :2013/1/23 7:34:00


  • Replyngadi,   Kenya
    2012/10/2 2:13:00

    what are the features of china education that kenya can borrow from?

  • Replymauti,   Kenya
    2012/5/23 5:54:00

    hi,what were the ancient systems of education in china not the modern ones?

    • Susan :2012/5/23 19:22:00

      in ancient China, from the Sui Dynasty, people go to schools and take part in the imperial competitive examination.

  • ReplyBAMURANGE OLIVIER,   Rwanda
    2012/3/26 8:06:00

    It is better to follow higher education in China, but information andcomplete means are still problems.How can help me hundolling those problems?

  • Replyshirley,   Australia
    2012/3/9 13:43:00

    Beginning a unit of directed study - want to look at the Chinese working on escellence in education. Is it the need to raise their lot from poverty, or a cultural need that goes back to the culture.

  • Replyseth oppong mensah,   China
    2012/2/2 15:38:00

    i would like to have my university eduction in China in management in Human recourse. I have my Technology certificate in Ghana and Ireland and want to proceed in any of the china university .
    Hope to hear from you soon.

    • David :2012/2/4 23:46:00

      I advise you go the local China embassy or consulate general for help. You may get help from a agency for study abraod or do a research on the website http://www.cscse.edu.cn/publish/portal20/tab798/