A Typical Day in the Life of a Chinese Student
If I had to come up with just one word to describe a typical day in the life of a Chinese student, that word would be exhausting. They generally wake up around 6:30 to 7:00 in the morning and begin classes by 8:00 a.m. In many universities throughout China, classes begin as early as 7:40 in the morning. They will typically attend between four to five 40- to 50-minute periods in the morning, and as many as three to four 40- to 50-minute periods in the afternoon with a ten-minute break between each period. Primary and secondary schools usually close between 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., and many of these students will then attend some extracurricular activity such as music lessons after school before returning home and commencing their homework. Universities also schedule evening classes that typically end around 9:30 p.m. Many schools, including universities, impose mandatory study halls in the late afternoon or evening hours, and attendance is taken by a faculty monitor. The amount of daily homework they receive tends to be massive and students report usually having to stay up until 11:00 p.m. to midnight in order to complete it. Children will often be severely punished by their parents if they are caught "wasting time" by engaging in recreational reading (quite unlike the reaction many American parents would have if they joyfully discovered that their children were reading anything other than the daily TV program listings). At all but the university level, and for the most part, students remain in the same classroom (homeroom) throughout the course of the day and the teachers are the ones who circulate from classroom to classroom. Classroom size tends to vary between 40 to 60 students and, theoretically, no more than 35 students for English language classes.
The academic year in China runs on a two-semester system, fall and spring, beginning in early September and then sometime in late February or early March (depending on the lunar calendar), ranging between 20 to 22 weeks each in duration with a winter break for the Spring Festival and a summer break that usually includes most of July and all of August. Primary and secondary school students typically receive only three weeks of vacation time during the Spring Festival, while university students will enjoy up to six weeks (from the end of the fall semester"s final exams to the first day of classes in the spring).