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The People’s Republic of China is a massive country located in Eastern Asia. With over 1.3 billion people as of the last census, it is the most populated country in the world, and the second largest in terms of area, with a whopping 3.7 million square miles of total land space. The country is a single-party state and is governed by the Communist Party of China, which has jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four directly-controlled municipalities (Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing) and two self-governing special administrative regions (Macau and Hong Kong). The capital and most populous city in China is Beijing.
The majority of China’s population, 91 percent, belongs to the Hans Chinese ethnic group, but the country also recognizes 55 other distinct ethnicities. Save for the regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, where the majority of the population is descended from the Huaxia tribe, the Hans Chinese outnumber the minority groups in every province, municipality and autonomous region. As of the 2011 census, China was home to nearly 600,000 foreign citizens, with the largest groups hailing from South Korea, the United States and Japan. Standard Chinese is the official language in China, and most of the languages spoken in the country belong to the Sino-Tibetan family. There are also several major linguistic groups within the Chinese language itself, including Mandarin, spoken by nearly three-quarters of the population. Traditional religions in China include Buddhism and Taoism, practiced by 70 percent and 30 percent of the country respectively.
Education in China
Because of its large population and the value placed on education in the country, China has the largest public school system in the world, serving 200 million students a year at over a half million institutions. The Ministry of Education oversees the educational system at all levels, and education is free for students between the ages of 6 and 18 and compulsory for those ages 6-15. According to statistics provided by the Chinese government, China boasts a net primary school enrollment rate of 99 percent.
The 12 years of education in China is split between three distinct levels: primary school (6 years), junior secondary school (3 years) and senior secondary school (3 years). The first two years of a student’s primary education in China focuses on the basics: reading, writing, basic mathematics. In the final four years students are exposed to a much broader curriculum, one that includes mathematics, geography, Chinese history, language arts, science, music, art and sport. Chinese students tend to perform extremely well on statewide exams, and according to statistical data, over 95 percent of all students enroll in the next level, junior secondary school.
The curriculum in junior secondary school, a level that serves students between the ages of 11 and 14, is very unique, and divided between two distinct categories: state-arranged subjects, including many of the core classes such as mathematics, science, the humanities, and technology, and subjects arranged locally, which are determined by the economic needs of that region. The goal in this category is to produce graduates that are trained to work in positions that serve the local community and economy.
Those who wish to study at the non-compulsory senior secondary level must first pass a rigorous entrance exam before they are allowed to enroll. Once they pass, students can opt to enroll in the general education track—a university preparatory program that includes advanced instruction in academic subjects—or the vocational track, which includes basic academic instruction, combined with occupational training that is focused on one of many Chinese career fields.
Higher education in China is carried out at hundreds of Chinese universities, many of which consistently rank very high on the World University Rankings. Prior to educational reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s, university education was free for all students who qualified academically and the structure of education looked much different than it does today. Students must now pay tuition to enroll in Chinese universities, and the structure has been changed to more closely resemble that of the United States and Europe. Three types of degrees are now offered within the higher education system: Bachelor Degree (3 Years), Master’s Degree (an additional 2 years) and a Doctorate-level degree (3-5 additional years depending on the program of study). In addition to the standard university degrees, specialty schools, which can be private or part of the public university, offer advanced instruction in areas such as medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, engineering and law.