Structure of Education in China
As is true of most Western countries, the Chinese educational system consists of five tiers: kindergarten; primary (elementary) school; junior middle school; senior middle school, and; post-secondary or college/university. National entrance exams are required for admission into senior middle school (Zhong Kao exam) and university (Gao Kao exam; literally meaning "tall exam," an informal abbreviation for China"s National College Entrance Exam, often explained芒鈧€漷ongue-in-cheek芒鈧€漷hat it is so abbreviated because it looms so large in the lives of all Chinese).
Vocational schools exist at the senior middle school and post-secondary levels for those who do not score high enough on their respective admission exams. As is true in the United States, a typical bachelor"s degree can be earned from between four to six years, depending on major (for example, a bachelor"s degree in clinical medicine is a six-year program). All four-year degree conferring universities also offer a 3-year diploma alternative for students who either didn"t score well enough on the Gao Kao exam or didn"t pass the CET-4 (college English test, band-4 for non-English majors). In 1986, the Chinese government promulgated a 9-year compulsory education requirement, so all nationals must stay in school through the end of junior middle school. Table 1, below, provides a schematic representation of the educational system in China.