The different levels of education in China are generally divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary, with a description of each level in the following paragraphs. Students who wish to pursue further studies usually must take the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) before gaining admission to higher education institutions. These tests are designed to ensure that applicants are able to meet the minimum requirements for admission to a given school.
The higher education system in China was first established under the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and was modeled after Soviet educational systems. As such, universities became the primary teaching institutions, affiliated with specific government bodies, and taught mainly subjects related to their respective fields. Research, on the other hand, was conducted primarily at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other research institutes. The centralized nature of the education system hampered cross-fertilization.
The basic education system in China is highly competitive, and has worked hard to establish a reputation for excellence internationally. Children begin primary education at age six or seven and attend public schools for five to six years. Secondary education in China typically consists of several years of college preparation. However, it is important to note that most of the education is free, with only a small number of jurisdictions implementing a five+4 system.
The next level of education in China is postgraduate education. Chinese universities are divided into two types: regular university and junior college. These two types of universities offer three-year undergraduate degrees as well as postgraduate programs leading to masters and doctorates. Chinese higher education is also based on scientific research, and most universities and research institutes have opened key laboratories, engineering research centers, and other research facilities. These institutions are often the driving force behind the country’s cutting-edge science and technology.