How Long Is A School Day In China

Last Updated on August 30, 2023

How Long Is A School Day In China? We know that parents around the globe would like to answer this question for their children and take a close look at what life is like at school in China. There is no denying that we love providing PISA scores and the truth about schools in China, but we also hear that PISA scores do not tell us everything we would like to know about schools in China. Therefore, our team worked hard to provide a much more detailed comparison of what a typical school day is like for Chinese students in both cities and rural areas, from kindergarten to high school. Keep reading to know more as provided at

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How Long Is A School Day In China –

How long is a school day in China?

There are many factors to take into consideration, including the number of school days, holidays, and cultural differences. Upwork can help you get more work done, whether you are looking for extra cash, or are hoping to grow your freelance business!

school in china facts

Rigorous and fiercely competitive, the Chinese education system has worked hard to develop an international reputation for excellence, particularly in math.

Schooling in China consists of three years of kindergarten, six years of primary school, three years of junior middle school (also known as secondary school), and senior middle school (high school). After completing these years of schooling, students then have the opportunity to continue to higher education.

Because China is in the northern hemisphere, its summer months are in line with Asia, Europe, and North America. The school year in China typically runs from the beginning of September to mid-July. Summer vacation is generally spent in summer classes or studying for entrance exams. The average school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a two-hour lunch break. The school system in China requires nine years of education. High school is not required but is common.

There are about 30 students in each classroom. Chinese students study from textbooks that emphasize China’s unity, past and present accomplishments, and its future. Chinese language and math skills are tested at the end of each year. Math is typically taught by drill, which means students are repeatedly taught the basics of math until they are able to demonstrate comprehension. Education in China since the turn of the 21st century has been undergoing reform, with the curriculum being redesigned to emphasize group activities and other methods believed to foster creativity and innovation.

A limited amount of university spots puts a lot of pressure on students to ace the Gaokao, the nine-hour national higher education entrance exam, which only 40% of students pass the first time. This pressure combined with the language barrier often leads to ex-pats choosing private rather than public schools where the teaching methods and curriculum may be more similar to what they have back home.

Getting into the best international schools in Beijing or Shanghai can be equally competitive, requiring transcripts, health records, and even recommendations on top of hefty tuition fees.  However, don’t start worrying too early –– you have options. Our extensive guide on China’s education system provides you with a better notion of what you can choose from.

China is one of the most progressive countries in terms of economic and business development, with an education system that offers children many opportunities to thrive in the future. The Chinese school system is often perceived as a breeding ground for highly educated future professionals.

However, while schools in major metropolises seem to offer great quality education, schools in rural areas aren’t as developed. They are often terribly understaffed, and the student’s opportunities and the educational environment are radically different from those in the big cities.

Another good insight into what the schools are like in China is the infamous National Exam. The pressure is so high, many students burn out, and stories of depression and suicide are not unheard of. Therefore, you should make sure that the Chinese school system is the right choice for your child.

china school system

Education in China

Education in China is primarily managed by the state-run public education system, which falls under the command of the Ministry of Education. All citizens must attend school for a minimum of nine years, known as nine-year compulsory education, which is funded by the government. Compulsory education includes six years of primary education, typically starting at the age of six and finishing at the age of twelve, followed by three years of junior secondary education (junior middle school).

Some provinces may have five years of primary schooling but four years for junior middle school. Junior middle schooling is followed by three years of senior middle school, by the end of which secondary education is completed. Laws in China regulating the system of education include the Regulation on Academic Degrees, the Compulsory Education Law, the Teachers Law, the Education Law, the Law on Vocational Education, and the Law on Higher Education.

The Chinese education system is divided into three years of kindergarten, five or six years of primary school, and three to six years of middle school, often followed by several years of higher education. Primary school education as well as the first three years of middle school are mandatory and are mostly funded by the government. However, schools still may charge minimal fees (about 300 CNY) for each semester and additional charges for food or extra-curricular activities as well.

A Chinese High School class taking final exam in a forest: pics

Chinese School System Ages

Pre-Primary Education2 to 6-7
Primary Education*6-7 to 12
Junior Middle School*12 to 15
Senior Middle School15 to 18
A Day in the Life of a Chinese Student | by Beverly Chan | Medium

Chinese School Hours

Children attend school five days a week. The school hours depend on the grade and the area, but, usually, kids start their days at 7:30 or 8:00 and finish at about 17:00. The school year in China typically starts in September and ends in late June or July.

Grading System in China

High schools, colleges, and universities in China usually have their own grading system that follows either five (A, B, C, D, and F) or four (A, B, C, and F) scale standard classifications:

A100 – 85%Excellent
B84 – 75%Good
C74 – 61%Average

The main difference between public and private education in China is that private schools tend to use bilingual teaching. Still, whether you decide to send your child to a state school or an international school, you should get ready for a very competitive admission process, an ambitious education system in general, and tuition fees that might seriously impact your cost of living.

How China Brought Nearly 200 Million Students Back to School - The New York  Times

Daycare and Kindergarten In China

Childcare in China is considered an essential part of a child’s overall education. Thus, pre-primary education (nurseries, kindergartens, and pre-schools)already offers various educational and training classes which are designed to give the little ones a head start and prepare them for a successful academic future. For some children, the pressure is just a little too much though.

Is Kindergarten or Daycare Mandatory in China?

As pre-primary education is not mandatory, every nursery, kindergarten, and pre-school will require you to pay tuition fees. In some cases, if the center has a very good reputation, the cost for the school can be rather high, in other cases, if the center is run by your own employer, for instance, it can be on the lower end. The difference can be quite significant, and you should keep an eye on your overall cost of living in China before sending your toddler to the best pre-school in town. Moreover, some childcare facilities might charge an additional fee for foreigners.

The Chinese are ready to invest a lot of money in their child’s education, which is why spots in popular pre-schools fill up quickly. Thus, even if you do have the money to afford a kindergarten with a very good reputation, you should make sure to enroll your child as early as possible.

What is Kindergarten, Preschool, or Daycare like in China?

The educational approach in Chinese kindergartens might be very different as well. Teachers are a lot more strict, and discipline is highly valued (more so than creative expression). Parents from Western countries may be shocked by this or even perceive these methods as cruel. Also note, that kindergarten is the time when ideological education is introduced to the curricula.

It makes sense to communicate with the school beforehand, learn all about their teaching methods and let them know what is acceptable to you and what is not. If you are worried that your child might not adjust well to the new situation, finding a kindergarten that does not follow a typical Chinese teaching style might be the best option.

Study shows Chinese students spend three hours on homework per day - China  -

Nannies (Ayis)

Many families choose to hire an ayi (literally “auntie”) to take care of their children. An ayi can also help with the household chores on a part-time basis or as live-in help.

If you’re thinking about hiring an ayi, make sure to talk to their last employer and ask detailed questions. You should also ask to see their ID and maybe run a background check on them.

Pre-Primary Education

Pre-primary education is available for children from the age of two onwards. It serves two functions: early education and childcare. The various institutions offering pre-primary education aim to foster children’s intellectual, physical, artistic, and moral development.

At what age do kids start kindergarten?
Nursery2-3 years old
Lower (junior) Kindergarten3-4 years old
Upper (senior) Kindergarten4-5 years old
Pre-School5-6 years old

In the big ex-pat centers, you will have no problem finding an international or bilingual kindergarten for your child. Some of them will gladly admit children who are under two years old. They may also be more relaxed and liberal than other kindergartens.

In China, it is common for two-year-old children to already be potty-trained. If your toddler is still wearing diapers, you should talk to their pre-school teacher about it, to make sure they are aware of it.

High School Students in Eastern China to Get Facial Monitoring in Class —  Radio Free Asia

Primary and Secondary Schools in China

When it comes to the best primary and secondary schools in China, the global community tends to attribute those titles to the international schools of the country. That is mostly because the curriculum in Chinese schools differs from the typical Western standards. Strict rules, the emphasis on discipline, endless homework and tests, and constant pressure from peers and teachers – that seems to be the daily life of a Chinese student.

Primary (Elementary) Schools in China

At the age of seven or six, children begin primary school education. All in all, 60% of the allocated time of instruction is dedicated to Chinese and math, also called “The Big Two”. Additionally, children are instructed in music, art, morals and society, and nature, and also take practical work classes.

Some schools also start to teach foreign languages towards the end of primary school and add extra-curricular activities to the mix. In fact, the competitiveness of the educational system in China starts very early on so parents often sign their kids up to a variety of extra-curricular activities in order for them to have better prospects in the future.

Usually, the school year starts in September and lasts about 9 months. Summer vacation is in July and August while the winter holiday is around January or February. The school days usually last a whole day (from around 8:00 until 17:00) with 45-minutes-long classes, with a little more flexible schedules in more rural areas. In China’s metropolises, where lunch breaks are shorter, kids might finish school around 15:00 as well.

Primary education lasts five years in most of the country, except for the major cities like Beijing or Shanghai, where a six-year-long primary school system is more common. There, children start school at the age of six, while in the rest of the country they don’t attend school until they’re seven.

After completing primary education, the students have to take mandatory exams that test their knowledge of Chinese and math.

how long is school day in china

Middle School in China

Between the ages of 12 and 18, children attend middle school in China. Public schools are often divided into junior middle schools (secondary school equivalent) and senior middle schools (high school equivalent), each of the three years long.

After completing junior middle school students can choose whether they want to attend a regular senior middle school, a vocational school, or a professional school. And while the school costs for junior middle school are usually minimal, the fees for later education increase significantly.

For many students, being able to afford higher education is not the only challenge they’re facing. Wherever they choose to continue their education, students have to take Zhongkao–– senior high school entrance examination. Then, according to their score, they are able to choose the next educational institution they wish to apply to. Usually, there’s not much competition at this stage, unless a student decides to apply for more prestigious schools in the country.

The schedules in the above-mentioned schools are similar to primary schools (8:00 to 17:00), however, the days are usually longer.

Gaokao: The Toughest High School Graduation Exam

The main goal of most senior middle schools or high schools is to prepare their students for higher education. In fact, the quality of a high school is often measured by the number of students they send off to college. This has a lot to do with the limited number of spots at China’s universities and the high number of applicants.

Thus, it is not surprising that secondary school students are under a lot of pressure. Aside from their regular workload, they also have to prepare for the Gaokao, the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, which is the basis for recruiting students for institutions of higher education.

This nine-hour exam taken in three days is very challenging and only 40% of students pass it the first time. The exam tests the students’ skills and knowledge in Chinese, math, a foreign language, and a few other optional subjects. According to their results, they will then be admitted to top universities, regular universities, or institutions that operate on a provincial level.

International Schools

China has a wide range of best international schools with an excellent reputation, mostly in urban centers such as Shanghai, Beijing, and other popular ex-pat destinations in China. Expats can choose from different curricula such as the British or American schooling system, or, in rare cases, German, French, or other national school programs. On top of that, many international schools in China offer the International Baccalaureate (IB). This is a good choice for ex-pats who move their children around a lot or who value an international atmosphere.

If you move to a smaller town, not all of these options might be available to you. But no matter which type of curriculum you decide on, you need to keep the financial aspects in mind. After all, international schools in China are rather expensive, with tuition easily reaching up to 18,000 CNY per month or more. Some ex-pats are able to negotiate their children’s schooling provisions as part of their ex-pat packages, but not everyone is so lucky.

Prepare for Waiting Lists

Even though the tuition fees for international schools in China are high and make up a big part of your cost of living, both international and Chinese students are flocking to these schools.

And even though the number of international schools in mainland China is on the rise, the demand is so high that the spots fill up quickly and many schools have their own set of requirements as well as long waiting lists. Hence, try to apply for a spot as early as possible and provide your child’s transcripts, health records, and, if necessary, recommendations. Keep in mind that an entrance exam and a personal interview might be part of the admission process.

Higher Education in China

Students in China can choose between a great variety of the best universities in the country that offer various degree programs such as bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as non-degree programs. Foreign students are welcome to enter all institutions of higher education in China.

Since the mid-1980s, higher education in China is no longer funded by the state, which is why the competition for scholarships is high. Thus, international students have to prove themselves in this competitive environment, especially because more and more foreigners are enrolling at Chinese universities.

Students spend two or three years on an undergraduate level program if they attend a junior college (also known as short-cycle college). Other regular universities, however, usually offer three-year and four-year programs on the undergraduate level. Many also offer graduate programs leading to master’s or doctoral degrees.

Aside from the usual undergraduate and graduate programs, scientific research is also an essential part of Chinese higher education. Various key laboratories, open research labs, and engineer research centers have been established by Chinese universities, and function as a driving force behind innovative new science and technology.

How to Get into a Chinese University

Higher education admission requirements can, of course, vary depending on the university you plan on applying to. Some universities only allow attendance if the visiting students pass a standardized Chinese language proficiency exam HSK (Hanyu shuiping kaoshi) or their own equivalent.

Moreover, every program might have its own requirements. Some of the documents you might need to submit include a completed application form, certified copies of your diploma in English or Chinese, certified copies of your official transcripts, and a photocopy of your valid passport. Often an entrance examination and an interview will be conducted as well. Please inquire with the university of your choice regarding the exact admission requirements, application deadlines, and visa requirements.

How much does it cost to study in China for an international student? (CNY)
Peking University26,000 – 30,00029,000 – 95,000
Fudan University23,000 – 75,0008,000 – 134,900
Zhejiang University20,000 – 48,00025,000 – 99,000
Tsinghua University24,000 – 40,00030,000 – 238,000
University of Science and Technology in China23,30031,600 – 37,600

Most universities will charge you an admission fee that might cost you from 600 to 1,400 CNY, depending on the university of your choosing. Submitting your application to more prestigious higher education schools usually means you will have to spend more. University rankings might also help you decide which higher education institution is right for you. The most prestigious universities belong to C9 League that is equivalent to Ivy League in the US. The best universities from this prestigious league that offer many programs for international students are:

  • Peking University– offers undergrad programs in science, languages and linguistics, business and management, art and design, and many more.
  • Fudan University– a very international school with many programs taught in English. Excels in both humanities (philosophy, history, and literature) and science (engineering, science, and medical science).
  • Zhejiang University– another C9 member with faculties in arts and humanities, social sciences, engineering, medicine, IT, science, and agriculture and environment.
  • Tsinghua University– offers various programs in science, engineering, business, humanities, law, and medicine.
  • University of Science and Technology of China– best known for its programs in sciences (physical, computer, life, and engineering science, mathematics, and chemistry)

Note that while these universities are considered prestigious in general, other, less popular graduate schools might have excellent programs for the field of your choice. If you know what exactly you want to study, make sure to research your specific options.

Copying the long Chinese school day could have unintended consequences

How Long is a School Day in America

Students in the U.S. attend school for 180 days a year, starting in September and running until June. Since the United States is in the northern hemisphere, its summer starts around June, at the end of the school year. Summer vacation runs from June to late August. The school year is divided into either four terms or two semesters, depending on the school. Students usually have breaks in December, February, and April. The school day usually runs from around 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The school system requires students to attend for eleven years, but most students complete twelve. The average class size is 23 students.

How Long is a School Day in Australia

Students in Australia attend school for 200 days a year. Their school year lasts from late January to mid-December. Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, it experiences summer while it’s winter in the northern hemisphere. Summer vacation for Australian students is from mid-December to late January. Their school year is divided into four terms, with each term lasting 9 to 11 weeks. Students then have two weeks of vacation between each term. The typical school day is from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and lunch is eaten at school. Students are required to attend school for at least eleven years, but they usually attend for twelve years. The average class size is 24 students.

School grades in Australia are called years. Kindergarten is the first year of formal schooling, followed by year 1 through year 6; secondary school, or high school, is from year 7 to year 12. A 6-year-old begins in year one, while an 18-year-old finishes school by year 12. From year one to year six, students spend about 12 hours a week working on math and English. Many schools integrate subjects, meaning they combine two or more academic subjects. For instance, say your class is studying coral reefs. A non-integrated approach would have students study coral reels only in science class. An integrated method incorporates math, by taking measurements, for example, and language arts. Students would then use that information to write a report about coral reefs.

How Long is a School Day in Japan

Most Japanese schools run on a trimester schedule. The academic year begins in April and ends the following March, with breaks for summer, winter, and spring separating the three terms. Uniforms are required and there are extensive rules for hairstyles, shoes, socks, skirt length, make-up, accessories, and more.

In each classroom, the average number of students is 29 with five or six computers to share between them. Students in Japan study academic subjects, such as Japanese language, math, reading, social studies, music, and art, and they also receive moral education. Moral education involves teaching students about health and safety, living a disciplined life, courtesy, understanding and confidence, public manners, and environmental awareness.

How Long is a School Day in South Korea

The school year in South Korea typically runs from March to February. The year is divided into two semesters (March to July and September to February). School days are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but many stay later into the evening. In addition, students help clean up their classroom before leaving. Most students remain in the same room while their teachers rotate throughout the day. Each room has about thirty students with ten computers for them to share.

After 5 p.m. students have a short dinner at home or eat at school, before study sessions or other activities begin in the evening. Students attend school Monday to Friday, with some Saturday classes scattered throughout the year. Their classes cover the Korean language, math, science, physical education, social studies, moral education, music, fine and practical arts. In third grade, students begin receiving English instruction for two hours a week.

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