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State Schools in China

Submitted: August 2013

State schools (also known as Public or Government schools) are either partially or fully funded by the State. In China, the Compulsory Education Law which is overseen by the Ministry of Education stipulates that each child should have nine years of formal education. This generally occurs between ages six to fifteen, during which time education is funded by the state, though parents must pay a relatively small amount for books and uniforms. Unlike local children, international students are required to have their tuition paid yearly.

The school system in China consists of three main levels, with class sizes averaging at around 35 students. These are:

  1. Pre-primary Education – this includes nurseries, kindergartens and pre-schools which are for children between 3 to 5 years old. This is non-compulsory and fee-paying.
  2. Primary Education – this last for six years (Grades 1 to 6) in most cases, which essentially forms the first six years of compulsory formal education. This prepares students for entrance into secondary schools.
  3. Secondary Schools – this is commonly split into junior middle school (Grades 7 to 9), which marks the completion of compulsory and free education, and senior secondary (Grades 10 to 12). Students leaving junior middle school usually go on senior secondary schools where they undertake the National High Education Entrance Examination, Gaokao which is recognised in most countries; while some opt to go to vocational or technical schools.

If your child attends a state school, he will be required to follow the national curriculum, which is geared at preparing students for Goakao. For secondary schools, this is divided into two parts: subject courses and activities. Subject courses are divided into obligatory and optional ones and usually include traditional areas such as mathematics, science, foreign languages – usually English, among others; while both outdoor and practice activities are encouraged. In China, the main medium of instruction is Chinese. If your child cannot speak Chinese, he will be held back a few grade levels, or set back to the first grade until his language skills improve. You should note however that there is usually little school support for families who do not speak Chinese and all the admission material are generally available in Chinese only.

Alternatives to mainstream state schools are available, primarily in larger cities such as Beijing or Shanghai. There are over 70 schools which are approved by the China’s Ministry of Education to provide instructions in foreign languages, which are generally cheaper than international schools. These schools can be found on the China’s Ministry of Education website by using the following link. - https://www.moe.edu.cn/publicfiles/business/htmlfiles/moe/moe_2812/200906/48832.html

Once you have selected a school for your child, the next major step is admission. Chinese state schools are required by law to accept children of  foreign residents. The admission procedure and requirements vary based on the selected school. Enrolling your child normally takes place at the school itself, during which various documents such as a formal application, health records, passport and visa information, previous school records, your work and residence permit are usually required.  Some may ask for recommendation letters, assessments, on-site interviews, and language examination. If available, you should check with your potential school website to see what will be required. Additionally, as established earlier, tuition is not free for international students, though is generally cheaper than that of international schools. Annual tuition varies, but usually starts at around 28,000 RMB.

Gifted children may be allowed to skip grade levels, while slow learners are encouraged to meet the minimum standards. Also children with disabilities are integrated into mainstream schools where possible, but there are several centres throughout China which are equip to cater to children with special needs. In addition to China’s Human Rights Watch (https://www.hrw.org/), there are several organizations which provide support for special needs children, with one being No Hands But Ours (https://www.nohandsbutours.com/).



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