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Basic education in China includes pre-school education (usually three years), primary

education (six years, usually starting at the age of six) and secondary education
(six years).
Secondary education has two routes: academic secondary education and
specialized/vocational/technical secondary education. Academic secondary education
consists of junior (three years) and senior middle schools (three years). Junior middle
school graduates wishing to continue their education take a locally administered
entrance exam, on the basis of which they will have the option of i) continuing in an
academic senior middle school; or ii) entering a vocational middle school (or leave
school at this point) to receive two to four years of training. Senior middle school
graduates wishing to go to universities must take National Higher Education Entrance
Exam (Gao Kao). According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, in June 2015, 9.42
million students took the exam.

Higher Education
Higher education is further divided into two categories: 1) universities that offer four-
year or five-year undergraduate degrees to award academic degree qualifications; and
2) colleges that offer three-year diploma or certificate courses on both academic and
vocational subjects. Postgraduate and doctoral programmes are only offered at
universities.

Adult Education
The adult education ranges from primary education to higher education. For example,
adult primary education includes Workers’ Primary Schools, Peasants’ Primary Schools
in an effort to raise literacy level in remote areas; adult secondary education includes
specialized secondary schools for adults; and adult higher education includes traditional
radio/TV universities (now online), most of which offer certificates/diplomas but a few
offer regular undergraduate degrees.

Term times and school hours


The academic year is divided into two terms for all the educational institutions: February
to mid-July (six weeks summer vocation) and September to mid/late-January
(four weeks winter vocation). There are no half-terms.
Most schools start from early morning (about 7:30am) to early evening (about 6pm) with
2 hours lunch break. Many schools have evening self-study classes running from 7pm-
9pm so students can finish their homework and prepare for endless tests. If schools do
not run self-study evening classes, students still have to do their homework at home,
usually up to 10pm. On average, a primary school pupils spend about seven to eight
hours at school whilst a secondary school student spends about twelve to
fourteen hours at school if including lunch time and evening classes. Due to
fierce competitiveness to get into good universities, the pressure to do well for Gao Kao
is intense. Many schools hold extra morning classes in science and math for three
to four hours on Saturdays. If schools do not have Saturday morning classes, most
parents would send their children to expensive cramming school at weekends or
organise one-to-one private tuition for their children over the weekend.