The Chinese Education System

The Chinese Education System

China is a booming country whose education does not reflect progress. Undoubtedly, the nation is a leading economy, but little can be said about the system, which has remained the same for over a decade. There could be challenges that plague the system and possible influences that contribute to the current state of affairs. Consequently, I aim to unearth what is behind China’s lag education system. I maintain that education is essential in every human society as it not only cultivates talents but also transmits values, spirit, and culture from generation to generation.

What I know

Henslin defines education as a system created by a group to teach values and knowledge.  For most of human history, education consisted of informal learning, equivalent to learning the culture. Education not only does those things but also helps to develop the mind. In China, Chinese education is defined as an exam-oriented education. Correspondingly, the school seemed like a factory and teachers the workers in the facility. Comparatively, the students are the product of the factory. What I mean is that the Chinese education system wants every student to be impeccable and devoid of flaws and that they are just like products from the assembly line. I studied in China from primary school to high school; I clearly understand how Chinese education influences my peers and me. When I was young, my teachers told me that studying was the most important thing for a student and that I should spend less time in playing because I would have enough time to play when I grew up. That illustration is a simple but typical example of Chinese education. However, I think Chinese education did not improve its teaching method in the past ten years. Notably, my niece keeps doing the same things that I did when I was young, which entails a lot of reading and hardly any playing time.

What I want to know

I want to find out the reasons that influence the formation process of the Chinese education system and impede the improvement of Chinese education.

The Search and what I learned

History is a factor that influences the formation of the Chinese education system. Numerous scholars attribute the genesis of education to the Xia Dynasty, which existed from 1532-1027. At first, education was a privilege that was exclusive to the elite. Nonetheless, the Han Dynasty established a public education system. It is noteworthy that examinations were at the core of the education system. The examination system was based on the teachings and commentaries of Confucianism, which was a public philosophy in China (“History of Education in China”). In the past, all students wanted to take the civil exam, because if they got good grades in the civil exam, they had a chance to get a position in the royal government. Being an official in the imperial government also meant that they could establish a reputation and get money in the future. Moreover, the exam and working in the government were ways to prove one’s social class. In ancient China’s society, people in the high-level social class had more privileges and power. Henceforth, tens of thousands of people took the civil exam every four years, and some people even spent more than ten years in this. It is fascinating that when I compared the ancient Chinese education system and Chinese education system now, I found out that both of them have a national exam-civil exam and the NCEE (the national college entrance examination in China now). In fact, those exams have many similarities. Both of them are crucial because they could change people’s lives. The civil exam was the main and only way for ancient ordinary people to start their official career, and the NCEE is the only way for Chinese students to go to college. By the way, a famous university’s diploma is very helpful when you want to find a high-paying job in China.

The education policy in China influences the formation of the Chinese education system. The size of the NCEE population is enormous, and to hold the national exam, the government has to spend a lot of financial and human resources. In 2015, according to the data from the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, 9,420,000 students took the NCEE (“Education Statistics for 2015”). Even for a country with a large population, the number of candidates was still staggering. In China, public universities are much better than private universities. The education resources are limited so that the government wants the top students to get the best education.

I believe that limited resources is why the Chinese education system uses the examination to assess students. For example, Tsinghua University, which is located in Beijing, is one of the most famous universities in China. In 2016, about 61,200 students applied for the Tsinghua University. However, just 330 students could be admitted to it (Zhou). The competition is so fierce that they need a national unified standard, the score of NCEE, to make the competition as fair as possible. By ranking students’ NCEE scores, public universities decide who can be admitted. Unfortunately, many people think that the criteria used by universities to evaluate students is unfair because a lot of learners have their own talents, which are ignored by the system. When I applied for the American University, I submitted not only the TOEFL and ACT scores but also self-introduction letters which presented the highlight point of myself. I often wonder why Chinese universities do not use the same application standards, which I opine are effective. One reason against this technique is that there are so many applications that many that admission officers do not have enough time and energy to read the self-introduction letters from every student.

Similarly, the rationality approach to governing education is deemed inadequate. The plan incorporates four themes: equality in education, quality production, efficient practice, and rejuvinated nation-building  (Li). However, implementing these ideals has proven challenging. The rationality is viewed as weak and unrealistic in education evaluation. Evidently, the approach does not consider the bureaucratic, political, and hierarchical nature of all education institutions. Again, it is impossible to tell the reliability of education policies due to bias information, China’s large population and distribution, and uncertainties in the educational settings. With these factors, the rationality approach is unable to improve the quality of education. Henceforth, to improve the system, the government should begin by reshaping the rationality approach, which will eventually lead to sound policies that will improve education.

Chinese politics not only influence the system but also inhibit improvement. Stringent political control restricts the lucrative partnership with foreign nations, which would serve the students well. Academic autonomy lies not with academic practitioners but with political heads. Those in charge of schools, notably higher educational facilities, are party secretaries (Sadler 7). Thus, they regulate any joint activities that could result in expatriates coming to teach or learn in China. Joint international activities will raise the standards of Chinese education within and without the country. Expatriates bring new ideas into the country and improve the learning technique. Equally, the Chinese can get exposed to different learning methods, acquire the skills, and return to China to improve the system.

The ancient class culture inhibits improvement in education. Since ancient time, teaching is one of the most respected jobs in China. There is a well-known proverb in China- “Once a teacher, always a father.” In the past, students were forbidden to query the answer from teachers. Until now, this traditional culture is still in class. I asked my little niece if she queried an answer from her teachers or the text in the book to which she agreed. However, she added that the teacher explained that the textbook answer was correct, and she should not argue against it. The excessive respect for teachers and the tremendous authority of teachers impede students developing their critical thinking.

By Comparison, the teaching method also impedes the improvement of Chinese education. The passive system means that students rely on teachers to acquire knowledge and pass exams (Sadler 10). Students are forced to memorize knowledge and are overburdened with homework to pass examinations. As a result, students do not have time to read books, and many fail to form a reading habit of reading when young. The tenth national survey of reading in world book days shows that Chinese read 4.39 books per year. That is far lower than the occident country. If people do not have a strong ability to think critically, and a wide range of knowledge, they will face a hard time to develop their own ideology.


Education is essential in every human society as it not only cultivates talents but also transmits values, spirit, and culture from generation to generation. Chinese education has developed for over five thousand years. During this process, it changed a lot and reserved some essence. Even though the Chinese education system still has some dissatisfactory parts, it is developing in the right direction. I believe that Chinese educators had thought all the things which I mentioned in this article and they already advance some solving methods. As a Chinese, maybe I cannot change the education system, but I can improve myself. I will try to spend some time in reading and writing. Reading is an excellent way to enrich spiritual and intellectual growth, and writing can help me to set up and express personal ideas. If more and more people are aware of the problem and try to figure out some solutions, we will not worry about the disadvantages of the Chinese education system anymore. Works Cited“China Education.” China Education Center, 2019,“Education Statistics for 2015.” Ministry of Education for the People’s Republic of China, 2015,“The Confucian Classics & the Civil service examinations.” Columbia University, 2007,, James. Sociology: A down to earth approach. Pearson Higher Education AU, 2014.Li, Jun. “Educational Policy Development in China for the 21st Century: Rationality and Challenges in a Globalizing Age.” Journal of Chinese Education and Society, 50 (3),, David. “The Challenges Facing Chinese Higher Education And Why They Matter.” The Observatory on Borderless Education Higher Education, 2015,, Chen Jian. Tsinghua University, the number of students enrolled in the provinces, one day and one place, wanting to cry without tears. SOHU, 2017,