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Education system

The Chinese government has introduced nine years compulsory education for all. Students are required to complete primary and junior middle school education. Thereafter, students who pass the appropriate entrance examinations go on to senior middle schools or middle-level vocational schools. They may then take the national college entrance exam which gives access to tertiary education.

Primary education is a six year course in which pupils study core subjects such as Chinese, Math’s, History Geography, Science etc. There is also a certain level of elementary political and moral education. A strong emphasis is also placed on Physical Education. Schools start around 8 am and classes go on into the evenings.

Junior Middle schools (junior high) is really a continuation of the primary system, with students studying the same core subjects at higher levels. There is an emphasis on sports and physical education, alongside moral and political education. At the end of the three years, all pupils take an examination, this for successful student’s leads to senior middle school or vocational school. These examinations are considered to be very important as the pass level determines the quality of senior or vocational school the students may be accepted into.

In Senior Middle school, students elect whether to follow science or humanities curricula. These courses are designed to lead to the important National College Entrance Exams. Again sport and political education is part of the curriculum.

Whatever type of higher education students wish to undertake, they must first take the National College Entrance Exam. This is held in early July and there are separate exams for science and humanities candidates. University and College admission is administered nationally and by admissions committees at provincial level under the Ministry of Education. Students apply for the institution and departments they wish to attend, listing choices in order of preference. Admission is decided mainly on the results of the entrance exams, but can also include an investigation into the candidates' "social behavior and moral character."

There are literally hundreds of universities in China, but these vary immensely in the level and quality of education. At the top of the pecking order are the key universities such as Beijing University and Shanghai's Fudan University. These rates go alongside western universities in quality. Below these are various provincial and local institutions which have been awarded the title of university. Somewhat confusingly, there are also a large number of normal universities. These are teacher training universities. Most universities offer four to five year courses leading to bachelor's degrees. It is also possible to continue to master's and doctorate level. These courses also require entrance exam passes.

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