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China has a 6-3-3 formal education structure. Primary school has an official entry age of six and a duration of six grades. Secondary school is divided into two cycles: lower secondary consists of grades 7 - 9, and upper secondary consists of grades 10 - 12. Primary and lower secondary together are referred to as compulsory education. In principle, school is free and primary and lower secondary school is compulsory. Students sit for a national entrance exam to upper secondary at the end of grade 9, and a national entrance exam to university at the end of grade 12.The academic year is roughly 36 weeks in duration and broken down into two terms, one starting in September and one in March. (UNESCO IBE, World Data on Education. Revised 6/2011).
Although most provinces of China follow an education structure with six grades of primary and three grades of lower secondary, some provinces use 5 grades of primary and 4 grades of lower secondary. Either way, the nine grades of primary and lower secondary education are considered basic education and treated as compulsory. In all provinces, upper secondary has a duration of three years. As of 2010, UIS classifies the school structure in China as having a 5,3,3 structure with a primary entry age of seven rather than six. Because this is not in alignment with either of the school system structures common in China, UIS indicators do not reflect the nature of the official education system. Care should be taken when interpreting UIS data for China.
Among other data sources, unique EPDC data collections for China include administrative data from the Ministry of Education (2000 - 2008), and indicators derived from UIS data.
For an overview of current education conditions in China, please view our education profiles.
Last updated: 9/2012
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