The Chinese government has placed priority on developing education, putting forward the strategy of revitalizing the country through science and education, making constant efforts to deepen the reform of educational system, and implementing the nine-year compulsory education. Governments at all levels are increasing investment in education and encourage people to run education through different channels and in different forms.
China's school education includes pre-school, primary school, secondary school, high school, university and college, as well as graduate school education.
1) Pre-school education is for 3-5 year olds and takes place in kindergartens.
2) Primary education is from 6-11. Primary schools are usually run by local educational authorities and over free tuition, although there are some private schools owned by enterprises and individuals.
3) Secondary schooling is for children from 12-17 years of age. Education of this kind is run by local governments and various business authorities. State-run secondary schools include junior middle schools and senior middle schools, both with three grades or years. The first three years of secondary school are compulsory and tuition is free. Senior middle school is not compulsory and students must pay minimal tuition fees. Private secondary schools often offer specialized education and have a more vocational bent, but the qualifications they offer are considered to be on the same level as those of state-run middle schools. However, graduates from secondary professional schools are seen to have achieved a higher level in some ways akin to a university education. Students graduating from junior middle schools usually go on to senior middle schools, although some move to vocational high schools or secondary professional schools for 3-5 years of study.
4) For higher education there are vocational courses as well as undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral degrees. Higher education is offered in universities, colleges, institutes, and vocational colleges. These institutions conduct academic and scientific research and provide social services as well as offering courses to students. To enter a university or college, students have to take the national entrance examination, which takes place every June and is now open to people of all ages. Selection is based on each student's marks in this exam, and due to the number of people sitting the exam. Getting into university is highly competitive.
(Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange October 20, 2006)