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The current Chinese public school system is based on the revisions to national education that followed the introduction of the “Four Modernizations” presented by Zhou Enlai in 1974. These four goals – to develop agriculture, industry, technology, and defense – are considered the pillars of modern education in China.
What is unique about the curriculum?
Critics of the local system often cite its over-reliance on rote memorization and test scores, creating incredible pressure for Chinese youth to succeed. However, in 2010 the government took steps towards education reform by loosening control over the national curriculum. Though most schools have not adopted all of these measures, many families are starting to demand more emphasis on self-directed learning, creativity, whole-child development, and critical thinking skills.
How is it applied?
Divided into a “6-3-3” schedule (six years of primary school and three years each of junior and senior middle school), the Chinese education system relies heavily on public funding. Schools vie for the designation of “key school,” which grants them more government funding. These schools enroll the most academically-gifted students and are considered the most prestigious. At the secondary level, “key schools” are similar to college prep schools in the US. National entrance exams are required for admission into both “senior middle” school (American high school) and university. Schools in Beijing that teach the Chinese National Curriculum through a bilingual model usually assess a child’s Mandarin skills before granting admission.
Why should parents consider it?
The single greatest benefit is complete immersion in Mandarin. All or most subjects are taught in Chinese, leading to literacy and fluency in the world’s most-spoken language. Additional benefits include an environment in which Confucian ideology provides teachers with palpable respect. Not only do they enjoy untaxed salaries and a national holiday (Teacher’s Day), but students are expected to obey their instructions without question, making classrooms much stricter than in Western schools. In general, Chinese students are also better at math than their American counterparts, a difference that has been attributed to everything from teaching methodology to student motivation.
How well does this education system prepare students for the real world?
There are more than 100 million people learning Mandarin all over the world. Establishing fluency early can provide them with an edge in their future careers. The Chinese National Curriculum reinforces a built-in belief that all children can achieve regardless of their background – as long as they put in the effort.
This article originally appeared on page 13 of the 2017 issue of beijingkids School Choice Guide. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact email@example.com.
Photo: WANG Hongying