The Culture of the Chinese Educational System: An Autobiography



The Culture of the Chinese Educational System: An Autobiography

















School District House In China

“Alex He, the father of a two-year-old girl, spent 12.8 million yuan (US$1.85 million) on a three-bed apartment in Chao yang’s Taiyanggong neighbourhood earlier this year, and is hoping his ownership will mean automatic admission to a nearby elite school for his daughter.”




Public schools offer places to students according to the proximity of their family home, meaning children are normally have a spot at the school which is nearest to their home. In most cities in China, this is how children get into elementary school and middle school.



This policy is designed to encourage fairness, but the opposite happens. Wealthy families compete for spots at the best schools via the real estate market. In Beijing, some of districts get thousands more applicants than they can accommodate, and some properties sold for more than 400,000 Chinese yuan ($58,000) per square meter. In order to limit this phenomenon, there is a new policy announced recently, which states that children will be allocated to any school in the wider district in Beijing, and not necessarily to the institution closest to their homes.  


Elementary School Schooling

In China, there are six years of elementary school, three years of middle school, and three years of high school. There is an exam at the end of middle school to decide who attends high school. Only 30 percent of middle school students go on to high school. School begins around 7:30 with a flag raising ceremony and a lecture from the principal who speaks through a bullhorn.

A typical school day in Chinese elementary school

Children typically go to school from 7:00am to 4:00pm. Elementary school begins at 7:30am. They study mathematics, reading, writing and propaganda, and often write on thin, brittle paper that feels like onion skin and glows if held up to the light. During recess children do calisthenics and relaxation exercises that consist of pressing two finger on one's eyes, nose or cheeks.”   

A typical school day in Chinese elementary school

7:30 am-8:00 am

Morning Reading

8:10 am-8:50 am


9:00 am-9:15 am

Radio Calisthenics

9:15 am-9:25 am

Snack Time

9:25 am-10:05 am


10:05 am-10:15 am


10:15 am-10:55 am


10:55 am-11:05 am


11:05 am-11:45 am

P. E

11:45 am

Go Home

2:10 pm-2:55 pm


2:55 pm-3:05 pm


3:05 pm-3:45 pm


 Difference Between Chinese Elementary School and American Elementary School

Looking into Chinese education system reveals many differences when compared to the American education system. Chinese schools focus on academic and discipline,while the American schools are more focus on creative than discipline. Here are some differneces we found between the elmentary schools in two countries:



          United States

Different teacher for different subjects, since first grade

One teacher responsible for all the subjects

There are 6 classes each day, each class lasts for 40 minutes since first grade, and 10 minutes break between each class

Morning Meeting

Shared Meading

Reading and Math



Students should sit well in their seat during the classes

Sit on the carpet for the majority of time in first grade

Maxima 50 students

Maxima 25 students



Month Test



Final exam

Map test

Parents conference

Parents night

Classroom parents

Transportation: Parents pick up

School bus (majority)

Pick up

Different kinds of class leaders


Middle School Schooling


Senior High School Entrance Examination, also commonly known as “ZHONGKAO” in China. This examination is a prerequisite for entrance into almost all education institutions at the senior high school level. It is held each year in June and usually taken by students at their last year in the middle school.

Zhongkao has two parts. The first part is written examination, including Chinese, Math, English, Science and History. The second part is physical education (PE) examination. Test materials vary from province to province, and different province has different criteria. There is a special additional point policy called “policy additional score”. This is the points addition to Zhongkao for some specific types of students, for example: the children of veterans, the children of disabled polices, minority children, etc. Although the standards are different in differnet provinces, the additional points will not be more than 30 points.

There are some other ways can get into senior high school. Before Zhongkao, there are two or three practice exams which are held by school, if students can get really high score then they will have chance to be recommended to the top senior high schools. Another way is that if students have talented in sports or art, they will also have chance to be recommended to the top senior high school.


Weekend Class  

The test materials come from everything we learn from grade 7 to grade 9, so most middle school in China cover all the test materials at the middle of the first semester of grade 9 and spend the rest of time to review, and it is very difficult to finish reviewing in one and half semester. So, the “Weekend Class” is designed to give students more time to review and study for Zhongkao. Generally, ninth-grade students go back to school on Sunday and take lessons, and they follow the same schedule they have during Monday to Friday. The weekend classes are held by school, but most students still have their own extracurricular class. They have classes with their tutors out of school.




High School Schooling 

A typical school day in Chinese high school

7:00 am-7:20 am

Morning Reading

7:30 am-8:15 am


8:15 am-8:25 am


8:25 am-9:10 am


9:10 am-9:30am

Radio Calisthenics

9:30 am-10:15 am


10:15 am-10:25 am


10:25 am-11:10 am


11:10 am-11:20 am


11:20 am-12:05 pm


12:05 pm

Lunch Break

1:30 pm-2:15 pm


2:15 pm-2:25 pm


2:25 pm-3:10 pm


3:10 pm-3:20 pm


3:20 pm-4:05 pm


4:05 pm-4:15 pm


4:15pm-5:00 pm



“GAOKAO” is the most important exam for all the CHINESE students.


Lots of books, materials on their desk, and all of these books will help them pass the exam.

(The day before Gaokao)


“As China's college entrance exam, or otherwise known as Gaokao, kicked off on Wednesday, around 9.4 million high school student have just finished Chinese, the first part of the test in the morning. Determining whether a student is able to enter a top university or not, the exam has become notorious for its challenging questions, especially the tricky essay questions in the Chinese part. Three hours after the essay questions were disclosed online, it has already become a heated topic, mentioned on social media platform Weibo over 1.33 billion times.”


Difference between GAOKAO AND SAT/ACT




Held several times a year and you can take more than once.

Art major: Chinese, Mathematics, English, History, Geography, Politics


Science major: Chinese, Mathematics, English, Chemistry, Biology,Physics

SAT: Reading, Writing and language, Math Essay (optional)


ACT: English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning, Essay (optional)

 Test Score Ranking

Students in high school take exams every month. After the exams, each grade level will have a score ranking. And this ranking is built on their exams score from the top one to the last one. Also, teacher will put the score ranking in the class, so every students in the class will find out their ranking. Besides, the best seats are decided by the rank of the exams score you get last time.


(The ranking lists include each student's score in different subjects, and their ranking in the class and grade level)



Division Of Art And Science Subjects

In Chinese high schools, there are two different kinds of subjects. One is art and the other one is science. When students enter the second year of high school, they are required to choose the subject that they feel more confident and interested, because the subject that they choose will be the exam format in GAOKAO. For example, if the students chooses Art, they will have history, geography and politics exams; if the students chooses Science, they will have chemistry, physics and biology exams. At the end of the freshman year, students will decide which subjects that they will focus more on the rest of the high school year, and school will arrange them into different classes based on their test score. If the students get higher score, they will go to the top class in that grade. If the students get ordinary score, they will enter the ordinary class.



Zheng, Y. P. (2017, May 31). Home prices in most popular school districts of Beijing face uncertainty after policy shift. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from


Hays, J. (2012, November). School life in China: Rules, Report Cards, Files, Classes and Teachers. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from


Hu, S. C. (2017, June 07). China Gaokao 2017: The 'world's toughest' uni entrance exam questions? Retrieved June 12, 2018, from


America, C. (Director). (2015, June 8). How the Gaokao exam in China compared to US college exams [Video file]. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from


Kay, K. (Director). (2016, January 6). BBC-A Day in a Life of a Primary School in China [Video file]. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from


Cai, Y. (2017, May 02). Beijing Cracks Down on Steeply Priced 'School District Homes'. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from


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